30 September 2013
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its fifty-fifth session, hearing a statement from Andre Doren, Chief of the External Outreach Service of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.
André Doren, Chief of the External Outreach Service within the Executive Direction and Management of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke about his new External Outreach Service which aimed to generate more visibility and build new relationships and partnerships. A dedicated media officer had been recruited to encourage and expand media coverage of the treaty bodies. He noted that a report by UN Women had called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, arguing that gender-based discrimination was the most pervasive form of discrimination that affected a large proportion of the world’s population than any other form of discrimination. He also briefed the Committee on developments in relation to other United Nations bodies dealing with women’s rights.
Nicole Ameline, Chairperson of the Committee, reported on activities undertaken between the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth sessions. She also reminded the Committee that its public meetings would continue to be webcast live on www.treatybodywebcast.org, which helped the Committee’s work reach a wider global audience. Committee members updated the Committee about external activities and projects they had undertaken, including training, studies, seminars and workshops on women’s rights issues, as well as the status of follow-up reports.
The Committee will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold a public informal meeting with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation in the countries whose reports will be considered this week: Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Benin and Andorra. The programme of work for the session is available here.
ANDRÉ DOREN, Chief of the External Outreach Service within the Executive Direction and Management of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the External Outreach Service was a new service within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that comprised of the Communications Section, the Donor and External Relations Section and the Civil Society Section. The High Commissioner created the Service to lead and coordinate the Office’s outreach efforts in order to generate more visibility, build new relationships and partnerships, and increase the overall engagement of the Office with external stakeholders. The ultimate goal was, over time, to build support, particularly financial support. A key part of the external outreach efforts was to encourage and expand media coverage of the treaty bodies. A dedicated media officer, Ms. Liz Throssell, served to target information about committee sessions and decisions to journalists based both here in Geneva and worldwide, and generally increase the visibility of treaty bodies’ work. In the case of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Ms. Throssell’s work had resulted in wide coverage of its fifty-fifth session, including reports by the major international news agencies of its concluding observations on Afghanistan. The overall aim was to raise the profile of the treaty bodies among stakeholders, donors and beyond.
Regarding women’s rights and the post-2015 agenda, Mr. Doren said that although considerable progress had been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, progress in reducing poverty had bypassed the poorest and most marginalized, a disproportionate number of whom were women. Regrettably, the Millennium Development Goals had not been an agenda for equality and non-discrimination. The new development agenda must be grounded in respect for universal human rights, including women’s rights, and must tackle the causes of poverty, exclusion and inequality. In a recent report the United Nations Agency for Women (UN Women) called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, arguing that gender-based discrimination was the most pervasive form of discrimination that affected a large proportion of the world’s population than any other form of discrimination. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights fully agreed that gender-discrimination could not be remedied through poverty reduction and economic growth alone. Its elimination required special measures and institutional as well as socio-cultural change. The Office also needed to focus on the cumulative nature of intersecting forms of inequality that left so many women marginalized and excluded in multiple and overlapping ways.
Turning to developments in relation to other United Nations bodies dealing with women’s rights, Mr. Doren said that on 12 September the Human Rights Council held its annual discussion on gender integration with the theme ‘Civil Society’s contribution to the integration of a gender perspective in the work of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms’. The Council also adopted a resolution on early and forced marriages. On 19 September the High Commissioner took part in a side event on women’s empowerment and participation in public life, focusing on countries in political transition, where she quoted the Committee’s statement on the role of women in the political transition processes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Mr. Doren highlighted the upcoming Security Council annual debate on women, peace and security. He said that the United Kingdom continued to promote the adoption of a declaration on sexual violence in conflict, and would hold an event at the General Assembly on 24 October to develop a non-binding international protocol on the investigation and documentation of sexual violence in conflict, which it planned to present to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in 2014. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Women’s Rights and Gender Section was developing a model protocol for the investigation of femicide, to be finalized by the end of 2013. The Office was also actively engaged in the Beyond 2014 review process of the International Conference on Population and Development, with the United Nations, with particular focus on sexual and reproductive rights.
Updating on the intergovernmental process to strengthen the treaty body system, Mr. Doren said the process continued to move forward; since the Committee last met a revised set of elements for a possible draft resolution had been circulated. Regarding the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ funding gap of the past three years, the Office planned to reduce it by refocusing its outreach strategy and building on opportunities by better communicating its stories, successes, and its impact in changing and rebuilding lives affected by human rights violations. The momentum was high on the issue of human rights; to take opportunity of that growing trend and to build more support and achieve greater instability the Office had to take action.
NICOLE AMELINE, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said the number of States parties to the Convention remained at 187, and the number of States parties to the Optional Protocol remained at 104. Since the last session Namibia, Senegal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Croatia and Timor Leste had submitted their periodic reports. Ms. Ameline summarized her intercessional activities related to the promotion and protection of women’s rights, noting that at all meetings she attended she had promoted the Committee’s request for additional resources for the Working Group on Communications, and its request to convene one of its annual sessions in New York. Ms. Ameline would visit New York next month to present the Committee’s annual report to the Third Committee at the General Assembly in New York on 11 October, to meet with the new Executive Director of United Nations Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and to participate in a side-event on women’s participation in public life and decision making.
Turning to the current session, Ms. Ameline highlighted the half-day general discussion on rural women to be held on 7 October. As always, CEDAW’s agenda for the fifty-sixth session was very full. It would conduct dialogues with seven States parties, meet with United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, other international organizations and non-governmental organizations, hold a half day of general discussion on rural women, meet with the Human Rights Committee and work on a host of other items related to general recommendations, individual communications and inquiries under the Optional Protocol, as well as its working methods.
Ms. Ameline reminded the Committee that its dialogues with States parties and the half-day general discussion would continue to be webcast publicly and live on www.treatybodywebcast.org. She said she strongly believed that the webcasting would contribute to making the Committee’s sessions accessible to a wider global audience, thereby increasing understanding of its work as well as of the Convention, and extended a warm welcome to all those who would be online guests during the session.
Updates on Experts’ Activities
Committee Members took the floor to update the Committee on external activities and projects they had undertaken, including training, studies, seminars and workshops on women’s rights issues, and the role of the Convention and its relevance within national and international law, during the intercessional period.
NAHLA HAIDAR, Committee Member, said that on 24 September she had attended the Cairo Conference in Egypt on women’s political participation. The presence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was very much welcomed. Important issues such as quotas, special measures and decision making from grass roots to the highest political spheres were discussed. The work being done by women’s groups in Egypt was very impressive, and the conference was a very positive development given the difficult transitional period Egypt was going through. Ms. Haidar noted that State donors were present at the conference. She would circulate a written summary of the conference.
NAELA GABR, Committee Member, also spoke about the Cairo Conference which she had helped organize, and said the importance of supporting civil society at such events could not be underestimated. The Committee needed to closely follow and support the transitional process in Egypt and ensure women’s voices there were heard. Turning to Bahrain, Ms. Gabr said she had undertaken a country visit there where she had met with Government officials. Ms. Gabr had also attended a meeting in South Africa on the right to water.
THEODORA NWANKWO, Committee Member, said her intercessional work had included meetings and conferences in Africa, including a visit to Nigeria to train magistrates on equal treatment and equal access to court resources and a meeting on the Charter of the Rights of Women in Africa, attended by experts from all over Africa, including the African Union’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, with whom she had discussed how the Committee could work more closely.
OLINDA BAREIRO-BOBADILLA, Committee Member, spoke about a conference in Mexico on political participation that she had attended that raised issues including more reliable data collection. In Uruguay a human rights organization had been set up that was also working as an Ombudsman and a national preventative mechanism against torture, and she had been invited to speak at its inauguration. The organization was extremely interested to know how it could effectively contribute to the Committee’s work.
SILVIA PIMENTEL, Committee Member, spoke about the Optional Protocol in Mexico, and a meeting she had attended in Costa Rica which considered issues of employment and education. She had also attended a conference about sexual harassment in Latin America which had highlighted the work of the Committee in that regard. Ms. Pimentel said that on 26 September she attended a visit in Sao Paulo on the participation of human rights defenders in scientific work.
VIOLETA NEUBAUER, Committee Member, informed about pre-sessional reports received by the Committee’s working group, which had prepared lists of issues and questions with regard to the reports of Andorra, Benin, Cambodia, Colombia, Republic of Moldova, Seychelles and Tajikistan.
YOKO HAYASHI, Committee Member and Follow-Up Rapporteur, briefed the Committee on the status of follow-up reports received from States parties in reply to the Committee’s concluding observations. She said that the Committee had received delayed follow-up reports from Bhutan, Israel, Malawi, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Eygpt and Sri Lanka, as well as reports on time from Italy and Lesotho. Ms. Hayashi would present an assessment of the follow-up procedure during the session.
The Committee’s concluding observations will be made available at http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=812&Lang=en on Monday 21 October.
To learn more about the Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination against Women, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/
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