ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

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

8 July 2013

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its fifty-fifth session, hearing a statement from Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Mr. Salama said that the participation of the Committee’s Chairperson in discussions with the co-facilitators of the intergovernmental process launched to strengthen the treaty body system constituted a landmark in terms of influencing Member States.  This had reinforced that outcomes should look to the principles of strengthened human rights protection, independence, the reinvestment of any cost savings in the treaty body system, and the use of modern technologies.  The Vienna+20 Conference had produced a number of action-orientated recommendations that would be presented to the Human Rights Council in the autumn and the United Kingdom had launched an initiative at the G8 that had resulted in the adoption of a Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.  The need to accommodate for women’s rights and gender issues had come out strongly in the 2014-2017 planning process of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Nicole Ameline, Chairperson of the Committee, reporting on activities undertaken between the fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth sessions, indicated that during her recent trip to New York, she had met the United Nations Secretary-General and the former head of UN Women.  Ms. Ameline said she had also taken part in discussions on the treaty body strengthening process and had argued for the reduction of backlogs, additional work on individual communications and the greater use of technology.  The annual Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, held in New York from 20 to 24 May 2013, had emphasized the criteria that a structured calendar of reporting should meet and had issued a joint statement on the post-2015 development agenda, underlining the critical link between development and the full range of human rights. 

Experts updated the Committee about external activities and projects they had undertaken, including training, studies, seminars and workshops on women’s rights issues, the role of the Convention, and its relevance within national and international law. 

The Committee will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold a public informal meeting with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the situation in the countries whose reports will be considered this week, Cuba, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Dominican Republic.  Next week, the Committee will examine the reports of Cape Verde, the United Kingdom, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Opening Statements

NICOLE AMELINE, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said there were now 187 States parties to the Convention and its Optional Protocol; 68 States had accepted the amendment to Article 20 paragraph 1 of the Convention, on the meeting time of the Committee; and there were 104 States parties to its Optional Protocol.  Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam and Denmark had submitted reports since the last session.  Following the Committee’s fifty-fourth session and her appointment as Chairperson, Ms. Ameline said she had travelled to New York to participate in the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women and had conveyed the position of the Committee on a proposed legally binding instrument on violence against women.  Ms. Ameline said she had held meetings in New York with the then head of United Nations Women and with the United Nations Secretary-General, whose acknowledgement of a human rights-based approach to development centred on gender equality was truly encouraging. 

The Chairperson said she had also taken part in the meeting of the co-facilitators of the intergovernmental treaty body strengthening process and had explained that the Committee wished to reduce its backlog of reports, expand its work on individual communications and inquiries, and use videoconferencing services.  Ms. Ameline said she had also argued that the treaty bodies needed to be closer to the development agenda and that a stronger gender balance in these bodies should be among the aims of the process.  The annual Meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, held in New York from 20-24 May 2013, had emphasized that a structured reporting calendar should meet a number of criteria, among others, predictability, efficient use of resources, and compliance with reporting obligations.  Ms. Ameline also highlighted the adoption by the meeting of a joint statement on the post-2015 development agenda that underlined the critical link between development and the full range of human rights. 

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had been particularly influential in the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the meetings highlighted by the Chairperson.  As a result, any outcome of the process was to have at its heart key principles of strengthened human rights protection, independence, the reinvestment of any cost savings in the treaty body system, and the use of modern technologies.  The involvement of the Chair in this discussion constituted a landmark moment in terms of its influence on the attitudes of Member States.  The discussions had been based on the documents provided by the treaty bodies and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

The Vienna+20 Conference, held from 27-20 June, had produced a number of action-orientated recommendations that would be presented to the Human Rights Council in the autumn.  Updating the Committee about other relevant developments, Mr. Salama noted that the Human Rights Council had held its annual full-day discussion on women’s rights and the Security Council had adopted a resolution on conflict-related sexual violence.  In the context of this year’s G8 meetings, the United Kingdom had launched an initiative that resulted in the adoption of a Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.  The need to accommodate for women’s rights and gender issues had come out strongly in the 2014-2017 planning process of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Updates on Experts’ activities

Among the Committee Experts taking part in external activities, PATRICIA PATEN had visited Palestine and Afghanistan to train persons in the justice sector.  PATRICIA SHULZ had been invited to join the Human Rights Council’s annual full-day discussion on women’s rights and thanked colleagues for reacting to her concern that the treaty bodies were not visible in Council.  Ms. Shulz had also attended two training courses at Swiss universities with non-governmental organizations on the role of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. 

NAELA GABR had focused on awareness raising activities with academia and civil society in the Arab and Muslim world in relation to the Convention and had taken part in training for blue helmets on the rights of women and the child.  VIOLETA NEUBAUER attended a meeting with representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund and other treaty bodies on how the agency could make better use of recommendations, and had spoken at a Council of Europe’s session on the Istanbul Convention.  

ISMAT JAHAN had briefed the Belgian Senate on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI had taken part in a discussion on the problem of Jewish divorce at New York University.  DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC had been part of a working group at the Vienna+20 Conference and THEODORA NWANKWO had participated in a training programme to help lawyers develop country-level capacity in the area of reproductive rights in East Africa. 

NOOR AL-JEHANI had contributed to a study and a number of seminars and workshops on the passing of nationality by women in the Gulf region.  AYSE FERIDE ACAR had delivered a seminar to Turkish high court judges on the connection between the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and laws on violence against women in Turkey, and had also attended a meeting on the role of security forces in preventing and responding to violence against women. 

MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI said that progress had been made regarding inheritance legislation and representation in many areas of Muslim law, though much remained to be done.  BIANCAMARIA POMERANZI had been invited to speak about the functioning of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to masters-level students in Italy and would also participate in a session on violence against women with the former minister for equal opportunity. 

NAILA HAIDAR expressed concern about women’s capacity to pass on their nationality to their children in the Gulf region.  Regarding the situation of women in Syria, Ms. Haidar also noted that a Syrian women’s network had been launched in Cairo and described her activities in support of women refugees.  HILARY GBEDEMAH had examined the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in comparison to the African Charter, looking at the low uptake rate and at the property rights of spouses.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CEDAW13/015E