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COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN OPENS SEVENTY-FIFTH SESSION

10 February 2020

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its seventy-fifth session, hearing a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work.

Mr. Salama recalled that on 18 December 2019, his Office, together with the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women had organized an event in New York to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Considerable progress had been made since the adoption of the Convention in 1979: achieving gender parity in primary education, reducing the maternal mortality ratio and increasing women’s representation in the work force and in Parliaments. Nevertheless, the Convention’s promise of gender equality and full enjoyment of women’s human rights was still far from being a reality.

Mr. Salama updated the Committee Experts on the treaty body strengthening process and said that the third report of the Secretary-General on the status of the treaty body system, published the previous week, was available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner. The report reiterated the well-known challenges in relation to providing sufficient regular budget funding for all the mandated activities of the treaty bodies, in particular for the required staff.

In her opening remarks, Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, said that the number of States parties to the Convention had remained 189. The number of States which had accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time had remained at 80; acceptance by 126 States parties to the Convention was required to bring the amendment into force, she noted.

Since the beginning of the last session, South Sudan had submitted its initial report, and seven States parties had submitted their periodic reports, namely Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Morocco, Peru, Portugal and Uzbekistan, said the Chair, proceeding to inform the Committee about her intersessional activities.

The Committee adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for the seventy-fifth session. It had heard reports on the work of the pre-sessional working group and on the status of the follow-up reports, and updates on the intersessional activities by its Chair and several Committee Experts.

The Committee’s session will take place from 10 to 28 February 2020, during which it will review the reports of Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Eritrea, Kiribati, Latvia, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova and Zimbabwe. The reports and all other documentation, including the Committee’s agenda and programme of work, can be found at the session webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/. Meeting summaries in English and French are available at the News and Media page of the United Nations Office at Geneva website.

The Committee will reconvene in public today, 10 February, at 3 p.m., to meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions from Latvia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, whose reports it will review this week.

Opening Remarks

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, recalled that on 18 December 2019, to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) had jointly organized a side event in New York. While acknowledging the considerable progress made since 1979, especially in achieving gender parity in primary education, reducing the maternal mortality ratio and increasing women’s representation in the work force and in Parliaments, it had been recognized that the Convention’s promise of gender equality and full enjoyment of women’s human rights was still far from being a reality.

2019 had marked not only the fortieth anniversary of the Convention, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Population Fund and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 – three historic milestones for women’s rights.

In order to fulfil the unfinished business of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, Governments and the private sector had made more than 1,200 concrete commitments at the Nairobi Summit last November to help ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights for all by 2030. Donor countries had pledged around US$ 1 billion and private sector firms had agreed to mobilize a combined US$ 8 billion in support of sexual and reproductive health and gender equality programmes.

The Nairobi statement called on stakeholders to report periodically on the progress towards fulfilling these commitments through transparent means and in appropriate public fora. However, regrettably, eleven States had dissociated from the statement adopted during the Summit due to references to “ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, which do not enjoy international consensus” and “may be used to actively promote practices like abortion”.

The accountability framework in the Nairobi statement echoed the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ calls at the Nairobi Summit for clarity in tracking commitments and the resources deployed in relation to those commitments. The High Commissioner had referred to the Committee’s 2011 landmark decision in the case Alyne da Silva Pimentel v. Brazil, which had found that a maternal death constituted a human rights violation. She had also cited the 2014 findings of the Committee’s inquiry that a municipal ban on modern forms of contraception in Manila, the Philippines, constituted a grave and systematic violation of the Convention, as examples for greater State accountability through civil society engagement with international human rights mechanisms. This served as a reminder that as a legally binding instrument, the Convention was critical to advance accountability for State action on the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action.

Mr. Salama then said that the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2020 in New York would focus on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. On 25 February, the Human Rights Council would convene a high-level panel discussion to commemorate Beijing+25 under the title “Accelerating the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, during the high-level segment of its forty-third session.

Turning to the treaty body strengthening process, Mr. Salama noted that the third report of the Secretary-General on the status of the treaty body system had been published the previous week and was available on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner. The report reiterated the well-known challenges in relation to providing sufficient regular budget funding for all the mandated activities of the treaty bodies, in particular for the required staff.

Despite the continuing financial difficulties, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights planned on organizing the same number of sessions as in 2019, with an additional eighty-fourth extraordinary session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to be held in Samoa in March 2020, concluded Mr. Salama.

Adoption of the Agenda and Organization of Work and the Report of the Chairperson

Committee Experts adopted the agenda.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, said that the number of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women remained 189. The number of States which had accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time had remained at 80; acceptance by 126 States parties to the Convention was required to bring the amendment into force. Since the beginning of the last session, South Sudan had submitted its initial report, and seven States parties had submitted their periodic reports: Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Morocco, Peru, Portugal and Uzbekistan, said the Chair, proceeding to inform the Committee about her intersessional activities.

Committee Experts provided an update on their respective activities during the intersessional period.

Report of the Pre-sessional Working Group

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Expert, said that the Committee’s pre-sessional working group had met from 22 to 26 July 2019 in Geneva. During the meeting, it had prepared lists of issues for the reports of Afghanistan, Eritrea, Kiribati, Latvia, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova and Zimbabwe, and lists of issues prior to reporting for Spain and Tunisia.

Follow-up Reports

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Rapporteur, briefed the Committee about the status of the follow-up reports received in response to the Committee’s concluding observations. At the end of the Committee’s seventy-fourth session, follow-up letters outlining the outcome of assessments of follow-up reports had been sent to Armenia, Bhutan, Burundi, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait and Ukraine. First reminders regarding overdue follow-up reports had been sent to Barbados, Montenegro, Niger, Nigeria and Thailand.

The Committee had received follow-up reports from Israel with a two-month delay, Micronesia with an eight-month delay, Monaco on time, Norway on time, Romania with a three-month delay, Singapore on time, Sri Lanka with a seven-month delay. During the session, a meeting on overdue follow-up reports should be scheduled with Barbados, Ireland, Niger and Nigeria.


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