8 August 2006

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Opens Three-Week Session at Headquarters; Will Convene Parallel Meetings to Consider 15 Country Reports, Reduce Backlog

NEW YORK, 7 August (UN Headquarters) -- At the opening of its thirty-sixth session today, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women decided that it would meet in parallel chambers, for the first time ever, in order to consider 15 country reports.  That decision, according to Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, would significantly reduce the backlog of reports.

According to the agenda and programme of work adopted this morning, the Committee will consider the reports on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women from Cape Verde, Chile, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Georgia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mexico, Philippines, Republic of Moldova and Uzbekistan.

In opening remarks, Ms. Hannan said that, with the accession to the Convention of Brunei Darussalam, the total number of States parties to the Convention now stood at 183.  Antigua and Barbuda had become party to the Optional Protocol, bringing the total to 79 States parties.  There had been no additional acceptances of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1.

Updating the Committee on the work of the Division in the past two months, she said that, among other things, the work on the Secretary-General's in-depth study on all forms of violence against women had been completed and would be submitted to the Assembly at its next session.  The Division had organized a high-level consultation mission to Liberia, in order to increase awareness and visibility of the Convention at the highest political levels.  As part of ongoing efforts to support the implementation of the Convention in Sierra Leone, it had convened a three-day workshop in Freetown.  Also, arrangements were being made for a discussion in the Committee on the ongoing reforms in the United Nations.

In her opening remarks, Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, reported on the first session of the Human Rights Council, held from 19 to 30 June in Geneva.  Addressing that new body on 19 June, she had stressed the Council's historic opportunity and responsibility to ensure that promotion of gender equality would indeed be an integral part of the Council's work.  She had also called on the Council to address gender-based discrimination and the disadvantages women faced in attaining full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to address situations of gross and systematic violations of women's human rights.  She had further called on the Council to establish early interaction with the Commission on the Status of Women.  She was happy to note that gender equality had been a prominent topic during the session.

She said that, she had also participated in the 2006 session of the Economic and Social Council, where she had spoken on "Innovation at work: national strategies to achieve gender equality in employment".  She had underlined that a decade of action since Beijing had produced significant results in gender mainstreaming policies, but, that the systematic practical application of gender mainstreaming by United Nations entities had remained a challenge.  The aim was now to bring coherence and coordination into the work of the United Nations system and, to develop a system-wide action plan for gender mainstreaming.  She said that, since the Committee's last meeting, deliberations had continued about United Nations reform and that a range of actors had contributed ideas and suggestions, in particular about the so called gender architecture.

The Committee's Chairperson, Rosario G. Manalo, updated the members on her activities since the Committee's previous session.  In June, together with one of the Committee's experts, she had taken part in the fifth Inter-Committee meeting, where she presented the Committee's proposal to create a harmonized and integrated human rights treaty bodies system, as an alternative to the unified standing treaty body proposed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  That meeting had also accepted the revised, harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty specific documents, recommending that those guidelines be applied in a flexible manner.  It also recommended the creation of a working group to discuss proposals on further harmonization of treaty bodies' working methods.

In addition, she had participated in the eighteenth meeting of the Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies, she said.  During that meeting, the Chairpersons had met informally with States parties, at which treaty body reform and the relationship between treaty bodies and the Human Rights Council were addressed.  The Chairs had also met with special procedures mandate holders.  She had also attended the first session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.  The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had also participated in the brainstorming on the treaty body reform, hosted by the Government of Liechtenstein.

According to today's adopted agenda and organization of work, the Committee will, apart from its consideration of country reports, discuss the follow-up to the Inter-Committee and Chairpersons' meetings of human rights bodies and continue to implement its responsibilities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention, as well as its work on general recommendations.  Representatives of non-governmental organizations will have the opportunity to address the Committee this afternoon and on Monday, 14 August.

Also today, Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women's Rights Section, introduced agenda items on the implementation of article 21 of the Convention and on ways to expedite the Committee's work.

Dubravka Šimonović, Co-chairperson of the pre-session working group on reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention, and expert from Croatia, introduced that working group's report.

In other business, one of the Committee's experts, Magalys Arocha Domingues, said that she had not received a United States visa in time to attend the Committee's Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  She objected to her selective and arbitrary treatment as a Cuban citizen, and demanded to be treated like any other member of the Committee, so she could fulfil her mandate as an independent expert.  As an expert, she did not represent a country.  While she was proud to be a Cuban, she endeavoured to be impartial and objective as an expert.  The incident was a violation of the Headquarters Agreement, under which the host country had certain commitments.  In that connection, the Committee's Chairperson said that the Working Group would be making a recommendation on that matter.

The Committee will meet in two parallel meetings tomorrow, Tuesday, 8 August, at 10 a.m., to consider reports of Cuba and Cape Verde.

For background information on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, see Press Release WOM/1568 of 4 August.

Committee experts are:  Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba); Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria); Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana); Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia); Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands); Naela Mohamed Gabr (Egypt); Françoise Gaspard (France); Huguette Bokpe Gnacadja (Benin); Salma Khan (Bangladesh); Tiziana Maiolo (Italy); Rosario G. Manalo (Philippines); Krisztina Morvai (Hungary); Pramila Patten (Mauritius); Silvia Pimentel (Brazil); Victoria Popescu (Romania); Fumiko Saiga (Japan); Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany); Heisoo Shin (Republic of Korea); Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica); Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia); Anamah Tan (Singapore); Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal); and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).

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