15 January 2001


Press Release

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

486th Meeting (AM)



The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women held its organizational meeting this morning at the opening of its twenty-fourth session.

Adopting its agenda and programme of work, the Committee agreed that during its current session, which is to last until 2 February, it will examine reports of eight States parties -- Burundi, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Finland, Egypt, Mongolia and Jamaica -- to monitor compliance with the provisions of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The Committee, which meets twice a year, consists of 23 experts who act in their personal capacities.

As of 31 December 2000, the Convention has been ratified or acceded to by 166 countries.  To date, the Committee has reviewed more than 250 States parties' periodic reports.  It has also made 24 general recommendations in connection with implementation of various articles of the Convention.

Also during this session, the Committee will begin work on its general recommendation on article 4 (special measures) of the Convention and adopt new rules of procedure, including those relating to the new Option Protocol to the Convention, which entered into force last month.  The Protocol entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies.

Opening the meeting, Yakin Erturk, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, welcomed the seven new members of the Committee and assured them that the Division would assist the Committee in its work.

Following the solemn declaration on behalf of its seven new and four

re-elected members to perform their duties honourably, faithfully, impartially and conscientiously, the Committee elected its Bureau for a term of two years.  Acting by acclamation, it approved the candidacies of Charlotte Abaka of Ghana as its Chairperson; Ayse Feride Acar of Turkey, Zelmira Regazzoli of Argentina and Rosario Manalo of the Philippines, as Vice-Chairpersons; and Rosalyn Hazelle of Saint Kitts and Nevis, as its Rapporteur. 

Taking the floor upon her election, Ms. Abaka outlined the future work of the Committee.  She stressed the particular importance of the contribution of non-

governmental organizations and underlined the need to update the Committee’s work methods and rules of procedure in connection with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was important to renew the commitment to the Convention, she said.

Reporting on the activities undertaken since the Committee's previous session (June 2000), its outgoing Chairperson, Aida Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico listed international events and meetings in which the Committee participated during that period.  She said that the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention was important for the women’s movement and signified a new set of responsibilities for the members of the Committee.

Jane Connors, Chief of the Women’s Rights Unit of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the Committee’s agenda items on the implementation of article 21 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and on the ways and means of expediting the work of the Committee. 

Article 21 provides that the Committee can make suggestions and recommendations based on the reports from States parties.  Under the item, opportunities are provided to representatives of the United Nations specialized bodies to present information related to the issues considered.

The Committee will continue its work at 10.30 a.m. Wednesday, 17 January, when it is scheduled to begin its consideration of initial report of Burundi.


The newly elected Chairperson of the Committee, CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, said that it was a great honour to take up the chairmanship at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  Women and men, and governmental and non-governmental organizations, had struggled for over 20 years to get such a unique human rights Convention into force.  Since then, State parties had used it to ensure that the principle of gender equality was part of their legislative norms.  At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was important to have a renewed commitment to the Convention.  The coming into force of the Optional Protocol had made everyone very happy and proud.  She complimented the entire Committee for their work on the Protocol and, in particular, she thanked the expert Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand for her hard work.  She also highlighted the important work of non-governmental organizations with respect to the Convention and the Optional Protocol.

Ms. Abaka said that the Committee should pay serious attention to the following issues:  the Committee’s method of work; the serious condition of HIV/AIDS; the continued under-representation of women in national parliaments; the status of the elderly; and the problem of growing poverty in connection with structural adjustment programmes undertaken in many countries.  Until human rights were taken more seriously, the conditions on the ground were not going to improve.

She urged Committee members to be more proactive and looked forward to the debate on those issues.  She had no doubt that the Committee would live up to expectations, and thanked members for giving her the opportunity to serve as Chairperson.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ of Mexico said that it was a great honour to present to the Committee a report on activities between the twenty-third and twenty-fourth sessions of the Committee.  She had enjoyed working as the Chairperson of the Committee over the past two years.  The adopting in October 1999 of the Optional Protocol by the General Assembly was a key time for the Committee and for all women.  That was important for the women’s movement and signified a new set of responsibilities for the members of the Committee.  The Committee had been able to finalize the rules of procedures, thanks to the generous work of Ms. Cartwright.

With regard to the specific activities, she said that in September 2000 she had been invited to participate in a seminar in Chile and had taken part in a working meeting with the members of Parliament of Chile with regard to the implementation of the Convention.  She had also addressed the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly.  In that statement, she noted that the Committee had already drawn up the rules of procedure that would govern the work of the Optional Protocol, and she asked Member States for their support.  She had received many other invitations to participate in meetings and consultations in all regions of the world, and had recently been informed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that experts of this Committee would be invited to participate in the World Conference against Racism taking place in South Africa this summer. 

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For information media. Not an official record.