Aide Memoire

                              EXPERT GROUP MEETING
                           ON GENDER-BASED PERSECUTION

                      (Toronto, Canada 9-12 November 1997)

I.     Introduction

  The Division for the Advancement of Women, in collaboration with the Centre
for Refugee Studies, at York University, Toronto, Canada, will host an expert
group meeting on the theme of "gender-based persecution" which will take place
from 9-12 November 1997.
  The results of the meeting will be made available to the forty-second
session of the Commission on the Status of Women which meets from 2-13 March
in 1998 for its discussion of the critical area of concern, women and armed
conflict identified in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth
World Conference on Women in 1995. It is also anticipated that the
recommendations will be of value to the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women, and other treaty bodies, as they elaborate the
obligations of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women, and other treaties, to women who are
affected by armed conflict and those who are refugees or internally displaced.

II.    Background

  Critical area E of the Platform for Action, "women and armed conflict"
addresses several issues : the participation of women in conflict resolution
and the protection of women living in situations of armed or other conflicts
or under foreign occupation; the reduction of military expenditure; the
promotion of non-violent forms of conflict resolution and the reduction of the
incidence of human rights abuse in conflict situations; the promotion of
women's contribution to fostering a culture of peace; the provision of
protection; assistance and training to refugee and internally displaced women;
and assistance to the women of the colonies and non-self-governing

  A number of those issues have been considered at earlier expert group
meetings hosted by the Division and other entities of the United Nations
system. Issues which relate to women in conflict resolution and the peace
process were considered at the Expert Group Meeting on Political
Decision-making and Conflict Resolution: the Impact of Gender Difference held
in Santo Domingo in October 1996. The report of this meeting will be available
as a background document for this expert group meeting. The Expert Group
Meeting on Refugee Women and Children was also convened by the Division in
July 1990. The Expert Group Meeting on Violence against Women, convened by the
Division, in collaboration with Rutgers University, in 1993 explored the
notion of gender-based violence and its occurrence in a number of contexts,
including in situations of conflict. In February 1996, the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees convened a symposium on gender-based persecution.

  Several issues addressed in critical area E have yet to be addressed by the
Division for the Advancement of Women. These include the protection of women
in times of armed conflict, and national accountability for that protection,
the reduction of the incidence of human rights abuse of women in conflict
situations, and issues relevant to the situation of refugee and internally
displaced women.  

  The issues in critical area E of the Platform, in combination with
paragraphs in other parts of the Platform, including critical area D, paras
121, 124(g) and 128 and I, paras 231(d) and(h) and 232(k), concern a number of
broad topics.  

  A common theme underlying these issues is gender-based persecution. This
theme stems from the need to incorporate sensitivity to gender-based
persecution, including rape, and other forms of sexual violence, sexual
slavery and forced pregnancy into international humanitarian law as elaborated
in, for example, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
The theme can also be seen in the need to mainstream gender into international
human rights law and in the importance of the inclusion of gender-based
persecution into the definition of international crimes subject to the
adjudication of the existing Ad Hoc Tribunals and the Statute of the proposed
Permanent International Criminal Court. The theme is also apparent from the
Platform's insistence on the need to ensure wide acceptance of gender-based
persecution as a ground for refugee status. A further example is the
Platform's emphasis on the mainstreaming of gender issues, and especially the
notion of gender-based persecution, into the training of police and military
forces, including peace-keeping forces. 

III.   Objectives

  The topics to be considered at the meeting will be:
  (i)  The application, from a critical perspective, of international
humanitarian law and international human rights standards to gender-based
persecution occurring in international conflicts and civil war;

  (ii) The incorporation of gender-based persecution into the work of existing
international criminal tribunals and the extent to which the question of
gender is addressed in the proposed Permanent International Criminal Court;

  (iii)     Gender-based persecution as a basis for the determination of
refugee status and as an issue to be considered in the protection of refugee
and displaced women.

  The recommendations of the expert group meeting will be directed at
governments, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional bodies
and civil society. They will aim to refine and expand the "actions to be
taken", both at the international and national levels, outlined in the
Platform for Action.  

IV.    Background documentation and profile of participants

  The basic documentation for the meeting will consist of:
  -    papers prepared by each expert on a specific topic from her/his area of
  -    background papers prepared by the organizers (the Centre for Refugee
Studies, York University and the DAW)
  -    papers prepared by observers.

  Eight to ten experts will be appointed by the Secretary-General of the
United Nations to participate in this expert group meeting.  They will be
chosen on the basis of their professional standing from among regional and
global human rights bodies, the International Law Commission, academe and
research institutions. Participants will also include practitioners and
non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights, humanitarian and
refugee issues.  In selecting the experts, criteria of geographical and gender
balance will be respected.  In addition, observers from United Nations
entities, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations,
academia and interested Governments will attend.

V.     Organization

  The meeting will be organized by the United Nations Division for the
Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the
Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. 

VI.    Administrative arrangements

  The meeting will be conducted in English.  The costs of participation of
experts invited by the Secretariat will be covered by the United Nations
(travel cost in economy class and daily subsistence allowance in York in
accordance with United Nations standards). Logistical support will be provided
by the Centre for Refugee Studies, York.

  All correspondence should be addressed to:

  Ms. Jane Connors
  Chief, Women's Rights Unit
  Division for the Advancement of Women
  Department of Economic and Social Affairs
  Two UN Plaza Room DC2-1226
  New York, NY 10017
  Tel: (212) 963-3162
  Fax: (212) 963-3463



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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
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