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It is an honour for me to address the Commission on Human Rights as it turns its attention to the item entitled "Integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective". Having participated in your session last year, I am very pleased about this continuation of our direct cooperation concerning the human rights of women. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for meeting in an informal setting with members of the Commission on the Status of Women during its recently concluded session in New York.
Since the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993, this Commission has paid renewed attention to the human rights of women, and to the gender dimensions of all human rights activities, policies and programmes. The commemoration in 1998 of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which coincided with the five-year review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, provided a further framework for increased interaction between mechanisms which focus on women and gender issues, and those whose focus is on human rights issues in general. The round table on women's human rights organized last year at this Commission, with the participation of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, was instrumental in the inclusion of this specific item on your agenda. This is one of the most visible expressions of your Commission's commitment to the Vienna mandate to ensure attention is given to women's human rights and to mainstream a gender perspective in all areas of your work.
Based on the groundwork laid last year, the current session provides the Commission with an opportunity to move beyond the important initial steps taken last year and to consider how women's human rights can most effectively be addressed within your overall agenda. Human rights issues of particular concern to women, such as violence against women, or trafficking in women and girls, have been part of your work for some time. The appointment of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, including its causes and consequences in 1994, and consideration of her annual reports by the Commission, has contributed significantly to our understanding of this pervasive and shameful violation of women's rights and to the development of more effective preventive and remedial measures.
A sharpened focus on the forms of human rights violations suffered by women, and our search for the causes of these violations, has revealed that women's equality and non-discrimination between women and men are not automatic results of the overall protection and promotion of human rights. We have learned that explicit and systematic attention needs to be paid to the gender dimensions of human rights, and their violations. Gender considerations also need to be inherent in all activitites for the protection and promotion of human rights so as to achieve the goals set at Vienna and Beijing, and in numerous human rights treaties and mechanisms. Therefore, this Commission must continue to expand its attention to the human rights of women beyond women-specific human rights questions. It must strive to develop approaches and strategies to integrate a gender perspective into all the items on its agenda so that the full and equal enjoyment by women of all their human rights truly becomes an indivisible part of any human rights implementation strategy, nationally, regionally and internationally.
The challenge for your Commission is to identify and act on women's particular human rights concerns, and at the same time ensure that targeted attention under a specific agenda item on " human rights of women" does not lead to compartmentalization of women's human rights and concomitant absence of gender concerns from other items on your agenda. In this regard, I wish to remind the Commission of ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions 1997/2 on mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN system. I would also urge that it reflect on the Council's Agreed Conclusions 1998/2 on follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that resulted from consideration in the coordination segment in 1998, and which also provide guidance with regard to the mainstreaming strategy.
This Commission has already taken steps to ensure the integration of a gender perspective into all areas of work. It has, for example, requested that subsidiary mechanisms include regularly in their reports data disaggregated by sex, and address the characteristics and forms of human rights violations under their mandates that were specifically or primarily directed against women, or to which women were particularly vulnerable. It has also called on special rapporteurs to take a gender perspective into account in information collection and in the preparation of recommendations. It is satisfying to observe that growing sensitivity to gender concerns can be seen in the work of many of the mechanisms. I urge this Commission and its subsidiary machinery, to strengthen these efforts so that women may indeed benefit equally from this important work and thereby enjoy the promise of the Charter of the United Nations and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In this regard, I am very pleased to inform you that in late May, the DAW and the OHCHR, together with UNIFEM, will convene, in follow-up to an event that took place in 1995, the second workshop on the integration of a gender perspective into United Nations human rights activities and programmes. Since 1995, our knowledge base concerning the gender dimensions of human rights, both in terms of conceptualization, and of implementation and realization, has increased considerably. The workshop therefore provides an opportunity to assess progress made in implementing the recommendations emanating from the 1995 workshop, and from other activities on human rights of women and gender perspective. It is hoped that the workshop will lead to the identification of opportunities for strengthening attention to gender issues in the work of the treaty bodies and of special representatives and special rapporteurs, and to the development of key strategies for further action. The Commission on Human Rights has created a number of new mechanisms in recent sessions, especially in the area of economic and social rights. On many occasions it has also emphasized the need to mainstream a gender perspective in these new, as well as in existing mandates. We are confident, therefore, that the workshop will make a major contribution in supporting these mechanisms operationalize the gender approach. Participants in the workshop will benefit from a study undertaken last year by the Division for the Advancement of Women, at the request of the meeting of the persons chairing the human rights treaty bodies, on the integration of a gender perspective in their work (HRI/MC/1998/6; the study also formed the basis for an upcoming issue of DAW's "Women 2000"). The study shows progress made by the treaty bodies in this context, and identifies areas where further steps could be taken to build on accomplishments already achieved. The workshop is scheduled to take place immediately prior to the annual meeting of the chairs of the treaty bodies and the special rapporteurs and representatives in late May and forms part of the joint work plan of the DAW and the OHCHR. The joint work plan, which has been prepared once again in accordance with mandates of both your Commission and the Commission on the Status of Women, remains an important tool for ensuring that cooperation between our offices can proceed in a structured and predictable manner. The joint work plan was before the Commission on the Status of Women at its latest sesion in March, and its consideration by this Commission is foreseen in a resolution you adopted last year.
The workshop on the integration of a gender perspective in human rights activities is only one example of the joint work of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Division for the Advancement of Women. I would also like to emphasize our continuing cooperation in the area of training, capacity building and technical and advisory services. This cooperation has set the framework to ensure that all activities are informed by a gender perspective at all stages - from the design to their implementation and evaluation.
Earlier today, the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Patricia Flor, highlighted the historic achievement of the forty-third session of the Commission, namely the adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Once adopted by the General Assembly later this year, we expect that it will quickly receive the required ten ratifications for it to enter into force. The Special Session of the General Assembly in June 2000 to review progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action also presents a fitting opportunity for Governments to demonstrate visibly their commitment to womens human rights through achieving one of the benchmarks set at Beijing - the universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000. The Special Session is also an occasion to ensure that, as a minimum, the required number of ratifications for the optional protocol is achieved, so that women can benefit from this international remedy for violations of their rights.
As we start planning for the entry into force of the optional protocol to the CEDAW Convention, I will ensure that the CEDAW Committee will be able to draw fully on the many years of experience and expertise of other human rights treaty bodies which oversee complaints and inquiry procedures. Again, I look forward to cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in this context.
This year, 1999, marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the General Assembly. As of now, 163 States have become parties to this "Bill of Rights for Women", making it the international human rights treaty with the second highest number of ratifications, after the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The latter observes its tenth anniversary this year. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will commemorate the 20th anniversary at its 21st session in June with, we hope, also the participation of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are also planning a special event for September which will address both anniversaries. I encourage this Commission, in its efforts to achieve universal ratification of human rights instruments, to focus especially on CEDAW in this 20th anniversary year.
The Vice-Chairperson of the CEDAW Committee, Ms. Hanna-Beate Schöpp-Schilling, will address this Commission on the work of that expert body. I am confident that her personal participation, as well as that of Ms. Flor, will further reinforce the interaction between the New York-based and Geneva-based mechanisms. As preparations for the Special Session on Beijing intensify, and with the ongoing efforts of the Economic and Social Council to ensure integrated and coordinated follow-up to United Nations conferences and summits, it has become clear that cross-cutting issues, including human rights and gender concerns, must be fully reflected in all areas.
In response to increased emphasis on human rights throughout the UN system, and recognizing that women's enjoyment of their human rights is conditioned by gender roles, the ACC Inter-agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality, which I chair, convened last October a workshop to clarify the understanding, and practical implications, of a rights-based approach to gender equality. The workshop, which contributed to the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, sought, in particular, to assess how this approach can, and should be used in policy making and programming for the benefit of women. The workshop stressed the centrality of the principle of gender equality to the realization of human rights. It also emphasized that the rights-based approach allowed for a holistic consideration of gender equality, encompassing all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and concomitant obligations of Governments. The usefulness of this approach in policy-making and programming in areas such as humanitarian assistance, the provision of food and of health services was discussed, and specific recommendations for action developed. It is my hope as the Chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee that the results of the workshop will provide food for thought and action, in particular for operational entities of the UN system in the implementation of Conference results at the country level. A workshop which the Committee is planning for December 1999 at ESCAP will explore challenges to women's human security in the context of present global and regional realities; and how a focus on the various elements of human security can contribute to strengthening women's empowerment.
The workshop on a rights-based approach to gender equality is a vivid example of UN system-wide cooperation on women and gender issues which encompasses all sectoral areas including the human rights of women. At the same time it showed that women's human rights provide a powerful framework and basis that readily encompass the full dimensions of women' s lives, be it protection from physical and mental harm, freedom from fear and want, and claims of participation and decision-making.
This Commission has the mandate to pursue the realization of women's human rights in any part of the world, and in areas as diverse as religious intolerance, disappearances and summary executions, forced displacement, extreme poverty, or education. A multifaceted network of mechanisms and bodies is in place. I call on you to ensure its systematic, effective and efficient deployment for women worldwide so that the promise of the new millenium will incorporate a gender-sensitive vision - and reality - of human rights.
I wish you success in your deliberations.