2 July 2018
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its seventieth session, hearing a statement by Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.
Ms. Gilmore described the current period of human rights progress as one of rollback, backlash and hostility to recent progress, and called on Committee members to maintain strength in the context of the difficult environment, and to bravely confront power on behalf of women and girls. Accountability, she emphasized, must be demanded, retrogressive laws and policies must be exposed, and harmful practices across every culture and polity must be called out for what they were. For the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the priorities for the next four years included greater support for international human rights mechanisms, mainstreaming of human rights within development, peace and security, and advancement of the core human rights principles of non-discrimination, accountability and participation, she said.
In her discussion with Committee Experts, Deputy High Commissioner acknowledged that it was the business of human rights workers to press unpopular issues, including such issues as the effects of climate change on those who were powerless. Speaking on the gender dimensions of new technologies, she said it was critical for women to participate integrally in the design of such tools. Having women in positions of influence was not enough; all marginalized groups must be represented, in a truly diverse meritocracy, she commented. Ms. Gilmore also discussed the Sustainable Development Agenda as an important counter-narrative to current trends in popularism and hate.
Dalia Leinarte, Committee Chairperson, presented her inter-sessional report after welcoming new member Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia from Nigeria. The number of States parties to the Convention remained at 189, and the number of States parties having accepted the amendment concerning the Committee’s meeting time had remained at 72, she said, noting that a total of 126 States were required to accept the amendment in order to bring it into force. The number of States parties to the Optional Protocol remained at 109. Ten States parties had submitted their periodic reports since the last session, namely Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guyana, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe, while Mauritius had submitted its eighth periodic report under the simplified reporting procedure.
Also this morning, the Committee adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for the seventieth session, and heard reports on the status of the follow-up reports and on the pre-session working group, as well as updates on the activities by Committee Experts in the intersessional period.
The Committee’s seventieth session will be held from 2 to 20 July 2018, during which it will review reports presented by Australia, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Turkmenistan, the State of Palestine, New Zealand and the Cook Islands. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.
The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon to hold an informal public meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions from Australia, Cyprus, Liechtenstein and Mexico, whose reports will be reviewed this week.
KATE GILMORE, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, conveying the greetings of High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and welcoming the members of the Committee, said that politicization of women’s bodies unfortunately continued. The current era was a period of rollback, backlash and hostility. The times required strength and robust compassion to bravely confront power on behalf of women and girls. Accountability must be demanded. Retrogressive laws and policies must be exposed and harmful practices across every culture and polity must be called out for what they were. Gender equality and universal respect for human rights must therefore remain a priority. In that regard, she called for a move from text to voice to revealing the demand of people in every locality for human rights. Inequality led to dehumanization of people, particularly of migrants, with toxic costs to women and girls, she added.
Deputy High Commissioner said that her Office’s priorities for the next four years, accordingly, included support for international human rights mechanisms, mainstreaming of human rights within development, peace and security, and advancement of the core human rights principles of non-discrimination, accountability and participation. Across those pillars, the Office would strengthen its work to prevent conflict, violence and insecurity, and help expand civil space. Work would be also shifted to frontier issues such as climate change, digital space, inequality, corruption, and people’s displacement and movement. The Office’s plans, she said, were strongly anchored to the Sustainable Development Agenda, its commitment to leave no one behind, and its emphasis on reducing inequality. The human rights of women, young people and persons of disabilities would be spotlighted in that regard. The integration of gender issues across all activities would continue.
Turning to violence against women, she said that recent reports by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Secretary-General’s report on Sexual Violence in Conflict, showed that women and girls continued to experience severe harm in the context of conflict, with violence against them continuing to be used as a tactic of war. For the first time, the Myanmar Armed Forces were listed in the Secretary-General’s report among parties credibly suspected of being responsible for patterns of rape or other sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council.
She commented that, in addition, it has been recognized that attacks on women and women’s rights in cyberspace must be counteracted without delay, although the digital environment also provided many opportunities to address the marginalization of women and lack of access to services. The rights of women in information technology must therefore be urgently addressed, with obliteration of the gender digital divide a priority. At the current session of the Human Rights Council, she was therefore pleased to be able to open the panel on advancing women’s rights in the economic sphere through access and participation in information and communication technologies. Deputy High Commissioner also described gender-related draft resolutions currently before the Council, including a text that focused on eliminating discrimination against women and girls in the effort of economic empowerment; on accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women, with a focus on digital contexts; a draft on strengthening of human rights on the Internet; and on the human rights dimensions of climate change.
Responding to comments by Committee Experts, Ms. Gilmore affirmed that, at times, the Experts were more clear-sighted than others in the international system, and urged them to be strong in persisting in their work and avoiding compromise on essential principles. It was the business of human rights to press unpopular issues. That was true of efforts to combat the effects of climate change on those who were powerless. On new technologies, it was critical for women to participate integrally in the design of such technologies, and to genderize science and technologies. Having women in positions of influence was not enough; all marginalized groups must be represented, in a truly diverse meritocracy. All leaders, no matter what their gender, must exercise integrity. On the Sustainable Development Agenda, she said it was an important counter-narrative to popularism and hate. There was poverty of voice, inclusion and other areas. All societies must be held accountable to avoiding dehumanization. She assured the Committee of her Office’s support in their efforts in all those areas.
Adoption of the Agenda and Organization of Work and the Report of the Chairperson
The Committee adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for the seventieth session.
DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, presenting her inter-sessional report, after welcoming new member Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia from Nigeria, said that the number of States parties to the Convention remained at 189. Similarly, the number of States parties having accepted the amendment concerning the Committee’s meeting time had remained at 72. A total of 126 States were required to accept the amendment in order to bring it into force. The number of States parties to the Optional Protocol remained at 109. Ten States parties had submitted their periodic reports since the last session, namely Andorra, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guyana, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe, while Mauritius had submitted its eighth periodic report under the simplified reporting procedure.
Turning to her inter-sessional activities, Ms. Leinarte reported that at the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March, she had participated in a consultation on cooperation between international and regional mechanisms on violence against women, spoke on the high-level panel on the topic, and made presentations on combating violence against women in politics and on advancing research on violence against women for policy formation. She had also presented the Committee’s general recommendation on gender-based dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change.
In May, she said, at a workshop on human rights defenders in New York co-organized by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, she had made an intervention highlighting the importance of the recognition and protection of women human-rights defenders. She had attended the annual meeting of Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies in New York, and had moderated a plenary session at the High-level Global Summit for Women Global Leaders, organized by the Council of Women World Leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania. The Chair said she had delivered a keynote address on “Global human rights and local anti-genderism” and three other lectures at the Venice School for Human Rights. Last week, a workshop that she had initiated in Vilnius with the Government’s support, had examined “Trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration”.
Committee Experts provided an update on their respective activities during the intersessional period.
Pre-sessional Working Group Report and Follow up
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Expert, said that the pre-sessional working group for the seventieth session had met from 20 to 24 November 2017 and had prepared lists of issues and questions with regard to the reports of Australia, the Cook Islands, Cyprus, Mexico, New Zealand, the State of Palestine and Turkmenistan. It had also, on a pilot basis, prepared a list of issues in anticipation of the eighth periodic report of Bulgaria under the simplified reporting procedure, which was scheduled for consideration at the seventy-second session of the Committee. In preparing the lists of issues and questions, the working group had paid particular attention to the States parties follow-up to the Committee’s concluding observations on their previous reports, except in the case of the State of Palestine, which had submitted its initial report. The lists of issues and questions were transmitted to the States parties concerned.
HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on Follow-up, said that meetings on responses to follow-up on the Committee’s concluding observations on national reports had been held with the representatives of Azerbaijan, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Uganda. The responses of those representatives were positive and they appreciated the information shared, she said. At the end of the sixty-ninth session, letters outlining the outcomes of assessments of follow-up reports had been sent to Bolivia, Croatia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Namibia, Poland, Portugal and Uzbekistan. Four reminders regarding overdue follow-up reports had been sent to Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Russia, Timor-Leste and the United Arab Emirates.
The Committee had received follow-up reports from Czechia and Sweden on time, and from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Slovakia, Uganda, Venezuela and Vietnam after delays, she said. During the current session, first reminders regarding the submission of follow-up reports should be sent to Haiti, Iceland, Mongolia and Tanzania; and second reminders to Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Timor-Leste and the United Arab Emirates, while meetings regarding overdue follow-up reports should be scheduled with representatives of The Gambia, Guinea, India, the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal and Tuvalu, concluded Ms. Gbedemah.
For use of the information media; not an official record