16 May 2006

Opening Current Session, Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Hears Call to Make Women's Empowerment a Priority in Development, Human Rights Fields

NEW YORK, 15 May (UN Headquarters) -- The need to address gaps and challenges in gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the United Nations work, further implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and make women's empowerment a priority in development and human rights activities were among the themes discussed Monday as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women began its thirty-fifth session.

Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said she expected women's human rights to receive the same attention by the newly formed Human Rights Council, as they had by its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights.  Her office would continue to collaborate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen women's rights and gender perspectives in the Council's work, and had already worked to ensure that a gender perspective be integrated into the mandate and daily operations of the recently formed Peacebuilding Commission.

She noted that the Secretary-General had asked the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment to asses how to best address gender equality and mainstreaming in the Organization, particularly in country-level operational activities.  Her office was contributing to that Panel's work.  In addition, she had spearheaded efforts of the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality to develop a system-wide policy on gender equality and a system-wide strategy on gender mainstreaming.

A clear framework was necessary, she said, stressing that a common United Nations policy would strengthen entity-specific gender-equality policies and action plans.  The gender-equality policy was being prepared and would be presented during the Economic and Social Council's July 2006 session.  The gender-mainstreaming strategy would address training, accountability, results-based management, monitoring and evaluation, resource allocation, capacity-building, and coherence and coordination.

Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, said that, since the Committee last met, two more States had acceded to the Convention, bringing the total to 182.  Two more States had become parties to the Convention's Optional Protocol, and 48 States had accepted an amendment to an article of the Convention, regarding the Committee's meeting time.

During its fiftieth session in late February, the Commission on the Status of Women had considered enhanced participation of women in development, taking into account education, health and work, as well as equal participation of women and men in decision-making.  She said that, also during that session, six resolutions had been adopted, including on the advisability of the appointment of a special rapporteur on laws that discriminated against women, in which the Commission resolved to invite the Secretary-General to elicit the views of the Committee and other relevant treaty bodies, on ways to complement existing mechanisms.  Themes for the Commission's 2007-2009 agenda -- pending approval of the Economic and Social Council -- would include elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child (2007); financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (2008); and the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS (2009).

Ms. Hannan added that the Division had organized a multi-stakeholder dialogue on violence against women, whose outcome would contribute to the Secretary-General's in-depth study on the subject.  She also pledged support for the Committee's current session, which would address country reports from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Guatemala, Malawi, Malaysia, Romania, Saint Lucia and Turkmenistan, and conduct more work on the theme of women migrants.

Turning to the Committee's activities undertaken between its current and previous session, Committee Chairperson Rosario Manalo said the Committee had considered the working methods for the parallel chambers, beginning in August, and the proposal by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a standing unified treaty body.  The Committee had agreed to submit ideas regarding creation of a standing unified treaty body.  A total of 31 non-governmental organizations would report to the Committee in 2006, and 38 in 2007.

Ms. Manalo said that, during the fiftieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in February, she had highlighted the Committee's intention to use the extension of meeting time approved by the General Assembly to expedite consideration of reports.  She added that she had told Member States that the Committee would discuss the possible transfer of the Committee and its Secretariat after details of the proposal to do so became available, and that any decisions should take the Committee's input into consideration.

Also speaking today, Regina Tavares da Silva, Chairperson of the pre-session working group for the thirty-fifth session, noted that, during its recent meetings, the working group had prepared a list of questions regarding the country reports submitted, as well as those of 10 other Member States parties.  The working group had benefited from the input of country rapporteurs and had addressed myriad women's issues, including education and training, stereotypes, trafficking of women, health, legal rights, marriage and vulnerable women, such as elderly, rural, refugee and migrant women, among other themes.

Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women's Rights Section of the Division of the Advancement of Women, discussed implementation of article 21 of the Convention on the transmission of the Committee's reports and the need to focus on women's priorities.  She also addressed follow-up to the fourth inter-committee meeting and preparation for the fifth, reform of the human rights treaty body systems, an overview of Secretariat activities to implement the Convention and its Optional Protocol, among other concerns.

The Committee also adopted by consensus its provisional agenda and organization of work (CEDAW/C/2006/II/1) for the thirty-fifth session.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 May to consider reports submitted by the States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, beginning with Bosnia and Herzegovina's report.

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