New York, 12 July 2010
Distinguished members of the Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it gives me great pleasure to open the forty-sixth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and welcome you to the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
This is your first meeting in the temporary North Lawn Bldg, as it is mine. I am assured to see that all the facilities are in place for you to have an enjoyable and productive session.
Before turning to your work during this session, allow me to bring to your attention a number of important new developments of interest to the Committee that have taken place since your last session in January of this year.
As you know, the Human Rights Council has an annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights. This year, during its 14th session last month, the Council focused on “Empowering women through education”. The discussions focused on practices to ensure that universal good-quality education is available and accessible for women and girls. It also explored how violence against women, including in the educational environment, can have a strong impact on women’s right to education; and how knowledge and learning can contribute to combating discrimination against women, as well as the causes and consequences of violence against women. The Council held two other panel discussions on topics of keen interest to this Committee. The first one aimed at giving a voice to the victims and survivors of trafficking. The other panel focused on maternal mortality and morbidity and discussed the High Commissioner’s report on the issue, which stresses the need to adopt a human rights-based approach as a means of ensuring more effective, equitable, sustainable, and participatory programmes and policies. The discussion at the Human Rights Council on this topic was notable for the presentation of a joint cross-regional statement on maternal mortality and morbidity supported by 108 States, a record in the Council. The Statement noted that MDG5 on maternal mortality is the furthest from being realised and called on the High Commissioner to present the report to the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, that will be held in September and report back to the Council on the outcome.
Also at the last session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, introduced her thematic report focusing on the topic of reparations to women who have been subject to violence in the context of peace and post-conflict situations. You will have the opportunity to discuss this topic further with Ms. Manjoo as well as other issues relevant to your mandates including ways to strengthen cooperation.
At its last session, the Council adopted resolution 14/12 on “Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and ensuring due diligence in prevention”. The resolution requested OHCHR to prepare a compilation of good practices in efforts aimed at preventing violence against women and decided that the theme of the next annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights will be violence against women and girls, with an emphasis on prevention. Also of relevance to your work, the Council adopted resolution 14/2 on “Trafficking in persons, especially women and children”, which, inter alia, urgesGovernments to incorporate a human rights-based approach into measures taken to prevent and end trafficking in persons and calls upon states to cooperate at the regional and sub-regional level to combat trafficking.
The seventh and eighth sessions of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) took place in February and May this year respectively, bringing the total number of countries reviewed to 127. I encourage you to continue to study the outcomes of the UPR for countries under your review.
On 31 October 2010, the international community will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. A High-Level Steering Committee (HLSC), chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General, has been established to guide preparations for the commemoration. The Secretary- General has also announced the establishment of the Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG) to the UN on Women, Peace and Security. OHCHR is actively involved in the discussions and preparations leading up to the 10th anniversary of this landmark resolution.
Distinguished Committee members,
On 2 July 2010, Member States of the UN made history by adopting unanimously the resolution establishing the new Gender Entity, to be known as UN WOMEN. It is created to be a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local level. In the Secretary- General’s own words, “UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe”. The new entity is a composite body consolidating the mandates of the four existing UN agencies working on gender equality and women’s empowerment – the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), the Division for the Advancement Women (DAW), the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). According to the resolution, the work of UN Women starts from the date of the adoption of the resolution and continues under the leadership and authority of the USG soon to be appointed by the SG to head the entity; it is expected that the entity will be fully operational by the beginning of 2011. You have in your files the resolution creating UN Women, and you will also meet with Ms. Mayanja, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement on Women who will brief you further on this.
As to other treaty body related developments, in June, the first ratification of the new Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was received from Ecuador. As regards the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, we are only two ratifications away from the 20 ratifications needed for its entry into force. In addition, the membership of several treaty bodies, namely the Committee on Migrant Workers, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has increased due to new ratifications.
While these latter developments are encouraging, there are also considerable challenges facing the treaty body system. Advances in the system will be achieved only when we fully take to heart that while each treaty body is an independent legal mechanism monitoring specific treaties, none of them work in isolation. It is critical to develop and uphold a clear vision of a coherent treaty body system. It is incumbent upon all treaty bodies to contribute to this process by continuing to further improve and harmonize their working methods.
I am pleased to inform you that the Inter-Committee meeting of two weeks ago in Geneva, which I had the pleasure of opening and exchanging views with, focused its discussions on one new innovative working method, namely the optional procedure of lists of issues prior to reporting, taking into account the application of the common core document and the treaty-specific reporting guidelines. Some advances were also made by requesting the Secretariat to ensure that page limits be applied in practice for State reports. In the next phase, we will seek authorization for enforcing page limits also in relation to responses to list of issues.
I believe that holding of the 22nd meeting of the Chairpersons of treaty bodies in Brussels was a very successful experiment in bringing the UN human rights treaty bodies closer to the regions. The Chairpersons agreed that convening its meetings in the regions strengthens the visibility of treaty bodies and therefore requested OHCHR to look into the possibility of organizing the Chairpersons meeting at the regional level every other year.
In order to better prepare ourselves for current and future requirements, OHCHR has engaged a consultant to map out treaty body related work flows and work processes within the Office. The aim of this consultancy is to come up with concrete recommendations on how to better integrate treaty reporting and implementation in the overall mandate of OHCHR. I am pleased to inform you that the work of the consultant is well advanced.
The High Commissioner and all of us at OHCHR look forward to the continued progress in your work. As we continue to compile your ideas and suggestions, we hope to see broad agreement on a meaningful set of treaty body strengthening measures emerging in the near future. In this regard, we count on your expertise and support.
Let me turn to the work of the Committee during this session. You will consider the reports on the implementation of the Convention in eight States parties. The Committee will continue its work under the Optional Protocol to the Convention. You will also consider the recommendations of the 11th Inter-committee meeting and the 22nd meeting of the Chairpersons of treaty bodies, which I have already mentioned. You will have an informal meeting with the States parties to the Convention. You will also continue your work on three general recommendations, namely one on article 2 of the Convention, one on older women and one on the economic consequences of marriage and its dissolution. As is its practice, the Committee will hold two informal meetings with NGO’s and national human rights institutions to hear information concerning the States that are reporting at this session. You will also meet in a closed meeting with representatives of UN entities for the same purpose.
I would like to conclude by wishing you a very productive session and reiterate the great appreciation of the High Commissioner and her Office for your extremely valuable work. I am happy to offer the support of the Office during this period, and I hope that we will have the opportunity to meet more informally.