Panel Discussion

"Women and children: from international law to national realities"



Ms. Angela E.V. King

Assistant Secretary-General

Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

10 May 2002, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Conference Room 4

Distinguished delegates,



Ladies and gentlemen.

            It is a great honour and privilege for me to moderate this panel on “Women and children: from international law to national realities”, which takes place as a supporting event to the twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly on children.  At the outset, I would like to congratulate Mr. Hans Corell, the United Nations Legal Counsel, on last year’s treaty event organized by the Office of Legal Affairs, which promoted signature and ratification of international treaties relevant to the rights of women and children.  I welcome and commend the Office of Legal Affairs’ continuing efforts to encourage signature and ratification of those treaties as a positive move to integrate gender perspectives in the work of his office.

            The 1990s added a new dimension to United Nations programming for women and children. While previously the advancement of the interests of women and children was regarded as important for outcomes such as economic development, population policies or as humanitarian concerns, the international community came to consider the empowerment and autonomy of both women and children, and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status, as ends in themselves.

            Amongst the factors behind this development was the increased recognition of the importance of international human rights law and particularly that which relates to women and children.  The idea of mainstreaming a gender perspective into policies and programmes also underpinned this shift.  The Secretary-General’s reform proposals made clear that human rights and gender equality are cross-cutting elements that should be reflected in all United Nations policies and programmes. We have witnessed significant advances in making gender equality considerations an integral part in areas such as sustainable development, human settlements, and peace and security. The outcomes of the special sessions on the United Nations Conferences and Summits, including Beijing+5, Cairo+5 and the current discussions on the special session on children, also show that women’s rights and children’s rights are increasingly viewed holistically.  United Nations entities now work together to realize the rights of women and children.  My colleagues in UNICEF consistently support the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which monitors the Convention, just as my Office and that of the Division for the Advancement of Women seeks to support the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

We must ensure that this complementary work continues: we must forge linkages and pursue the common goals of realizing the rights of both women and children. In this context, I would like to emphasize the importance for this work of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and their related protocols, and urge their signature and ratification.  In this regard we are all very pleased to note that with Somalia’s recent signature of the CRC, no Member State remains which has not signed this Convention.

Today, this panel will:

·        Underline the importance of the international rule of law:

·        Give examples of the application of international law at the national level for advancing the enjoyment of human rights of women and children; and

·        Highlight the complementary application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is my great pleasure to introduce our first four panelists.

Mr. Hans Corell has been Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations since March 1994.  In this capacity, Mr. Corell is head of the Office of Legal Affairs in the United Nations Secretariat.  Before joining the United Nations, Mr. Corell, a national of Sweden, was Ambassador and Under-Secretary for Legal and Consular Affairs in his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1984 to 1994. Mr. Corell is the author of many publications, including “The European Convention on Human Rights: Swedish Experiences – Thoughts for the Future”.

Mr. Jaap Doek is the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and has been a member of that Committee since 1999.  He is a professor of family and juvenile law at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and at the University of Leiden, and a deputy justice of the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam.  Mr. Doek is a member of the European Law Faculties Association, and has been a member of a number of organizations dealing with children, including a founding member of Defense for Children International and the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse.  He has also been a board member of the International Association for Family and Juvenile Court Magistrates.

Ms. Regina Tavares da Silva has been a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women since 2000.  She is Special Adviser to the Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights in Portugal, and was President of that Commission from 1986 to 1992.  She has also been a member of various national committees and commissions, including the Portuguese Commission for Equality in Work and Employment.  She has been the President of the Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the European Commission; an expert and consultant for the Council of Europe; and the President of the European Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men.  Ms. Tavares da Silva has published widely on women’s rights, human rights and gender, and equality and democracy.

Justice Unity Dow is the first female High Court Judge in Botswana where she has served  since 1998.  She has a long record as a human rights attorney. She co-founded the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project and is a member of International Women's Rights Watch. She was the plaintiff in a groundbreaking case that challenged Botswana's nationality law and led to the passage of legislation allowing women to pass on their nationality to their children on the same basis as men.  Justice Dow’s case is discussed in, Bringing International Human Rights Law Home, published by the United Nations in 2000.  She has written about the link between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and children's legal status in Botswana, and has recently published a novel entitled, Far and Beyond.

            I now take pleasure in introducing the next three panellists.

Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic a former Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women (2000 – 2002), has been Minister Plenipotentiary in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, New York, since May 1998. Before taking up her current functions, Ms. Šimonovicć served her Government in a number of positions, including Head of the Department for Human Rights at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 1994 to 1996 and Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister between 1992 and 1993. Since 2001, she has been Chairperson of the UNIFEM Consultative Committee.  Ms. Šimonovicć has participated widely in international and regional conferences and meetings on women and children, including from 1999 to 2000, as Vice-Chair of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly on Beijing +5. She has also been a member of various government bodies, such as the National Committee on the rights of the child.

Ms. Saida Labbene, is the Director-General for Children at the Ministry for Youth, Children and Sports in Tunisia. Since 1997, she has been the rapporteur for the Committee on Equality, established within the National Council for Women and Family. She worked for a number of years at the Ministry for Women and Family, including as director for the promotion of women from 1997 to 2000, and as deputy director for communications and migrant women from 1993 to 1996.  She has been involved with various national programmes and projects relating to women and development, rural women and girls. Ms. Labbene has authored reports and materials on equality issues in professional life, gender and sustainable development, and rural women. 

Ms. Cecilia Pérez Díaz, is the Minister of Planning and Co-operation in Chile.  She is a social worker by profession.  She has occupied a number of diverse positions in public administration, including at the local level in the area of community development and planning in the municipality of Concepción; at the regional level in the Regional Secretariat for Planning; and at the national level in the Social Policy Monitoring Programme at the Ministry of Planning.  Since 1998, Ms. Pérez has worked at the National Foundation to overcome Poverty, where she was Executive Director and head of the area dealing with studies and thematic coordination.

            Before I open the floor it gives me great pleasure to recognize a renowned civil and indigenous rights activist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, Ms. Rigoberta Menchu Tum.  She is President of the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation and was a United Nations Good Will Ambassador for the International Year of Indigenous People in l993, and a UNESCO Good Will Ambassador. She was awarded Commander of the French Legion of Honour in l996 and received the Prince of Asturias Prize for International Co-operation in l998. She has honorary degrees from universities in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and is part of the Latin American and Caribbean Commission of Notables.  We are delighted to have you with us today, Madame.