24 February 2006

Background Release

Commission on Status of Women Will Hold 50th Session at Headquarters 27 February - 10 March

Focus:  Women's Equal Participation in Development Decision-Making

NEW YORK, 24 February, (Division for the Advancement of Women) -- The Commission on the Status of Women will hold its fiftieth session from 27 February to 10 March, marking 60 years of working for gender equality, development and peace.  Since its inception in 1946, the Commission on the Status of Women has been an untiring advocate for gender equality and empowerment of women across the globe.  It has provided a unique space for exchange of national experience and good practice, and for bringing the voices of the women's movement to the United Nations.

During the two-week session, the Commission will focus on two substantive themes: "Enhanced participation of women in development: an enabling environment for achieving gender equality and the advancement of women, taking into account, inter alia, the fields of education, health and work"; and "Equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels".

The Secretary-General's report on enhanced participation of women in development (document E/CN.6/2006/12) analyses the enabling environment for achieving gender equality and the advancement of women, and presents challenges and opportunities for enhancing women's participation, including in the areas of education, health and work.  Over the past decade, many countries have adopted policy reforms, improved legislative frameworks and accelerated institutional development to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women.  According to the report, however, a large gap remains between policy and practice.

The uneven progress in implementing the international commitments on gender equality and empowerment of women highlights the importance of creating an enabling environment, through a more coherent, integrated and multisectoral approach.  An enabling environment includes development of policies, legislation and institutional mechanisms, and allocation of resources which facilitate women's increased involvement in, and influence on, development processes in all areas, including education, health and work.  Women's full enjoyment of the right to health, education, and work outside the household, are recognized in the report as critical for their effective participation in development.  A number of key actions have also been identified as necessary to ensure more conducive environments for achieving the goals of the Platform for Action adopted at the Beijing Women's Conference in the areas of education, health and work.

The Secretary-General's report on equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels (document E/CN.6/2006/13) analyses the current situation of women in decision-making processes and the conditions required for achieving their successful political participation and leadership.  The incremental changes over the past decades, according to the report, have been too slow.  The concept of building a "critical mass" of women's leaders has proven to be an effective mobilization tool, and quotas have also been used very successfully in the political arena.  However, even where women's numerical representation has increased, much more needs to be done to ensure effective participation and potential to influence decision-making processes.  The report also takes into account the linkages between the political and economic empowerment of women, which must also be recognized when considering the participation of women in decision-making.

According to the report, continuing challenges to women's equal participation in, and impact on, decision-making include women's exclusion from male-dominated policy domains, the absence of enabling environments in political institutions, the persistence of stereotypical attitudes and behaviour, and inequitable sharing of family responsibilities between women and men.  The lack of sex-disaggregated data on women's access to decision-making at all levels in areas such as the economy, the judiciary, the media, academia and international affairs, remains a serious constraint to monitoring progress.  Accelerating the pace of change will require increased political will and concrete action, to address these challenges.

During the fiftieth session, the Commission will also review its working methods and adopt a new multi-year programme of work from 2007.  The report of the Secretary-General on proposals for a multi-year programme of work of the Commission, (document E/CN.6/2006/3), provides recommendations in that regard.

In addition to the consideration of the two substantive themes, and a review of its multi-year programme of work, the following documents are also before the Commission:

-- a report of the Secretary General reviewing progress made in mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development, implementation and evaluation of national policies and programmes (document E/CN.6/2006/2);

-- a report of the Secretary-General on the situation of, and assistance to, Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2006/4);

-- a report on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, focusing on the electoral process, efforts to promote and protect the rights of women and girls, and social and economic reconstruction and rehabilitation (document E/CN.6/2006/5);

-- a report of the Secretary General on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2006/6); and

-- a report of the Secretary General on economic advancement for women, examining such issues as the status of women in the labour market, including occupational segregation, wage gaps, economic decision-making, harmonization of work and family responsibilities (document E/CN.6/2006/7).

The Commission will also discuss the advisability of the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women, based on a report of the Secretary-General (document E/CN.6/2006/8). The report presents an overview of international human rights instruments, policy documents and mechanisms aimed at eliminating laws that discriminate against women.

The Commission will also further consider the future work of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women, on the basis of the Secretary-General's report, (document E/CN.6/2004/11); the Joint Work Plan of the Division For The Advancement Of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights(documents E/CN.6/2006/9); the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women on the elimination of violence against women (document E/CN.6/2006/10), and strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document E/CN.6/2006/11).

* *** *