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Opening statement by Ms. Naéla Gabr Chairperson Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at the forty-sixth session

New York, 12 July 2010

Excellencies
Distinguished colleagues
Ladies and Gentleman

I am very pleased to welcome you once again to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and to the forty-sixth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It is also a great pleasure for me to welcome the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

While there remain 186 States parties to the Convention and 99 States parties to the Optional Protocol, it is a pleasure for me to report that, since our last session, two States, namely Morocco and Spain, have accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, bringing the number of States parties to 57. You will recall that after our last session, I sent a letter to States parties which have not yet accepted the amendment to encourage them to do so, giving the Committee more flexibility to carry out its function of monitoring the implementation of the Convention.  Following this letter, Morocco has accepted the amendment, and both Irak and Cambodia have informed the Secretariat of their intention to deposit their acceptance with the Secretary–General, while Spain had accepted the amendment before this initiative. Acceptance by two thirds of the membership, corresponding to 124 States parties, is required before the amendment enters into force.

Distinguished Colleagues,

It is only a few months since the forty-fifth session of the Committee ended. However, I have engaged in quite a few activities in my capacity as a Chairperson of the CEDAW Committee and other issues that may be of interest of the Committee.

Before I do so, I would like to recall that ten days ago, I participated in the twenty-second Meeting of Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies which took place in Brussels. This new format outside of Geneva allowed treaty body experts to interact with regional partners based in Brussels, including the European Union, the Council of Europe, NGOs and academics. The main objective of this initiative was to bring treaty bodies closer to the implementation level and raise awareness in regions on their work in order to strengthen linkages, synergies and enhance implementation between international and regional human rights mechanisms and institutions.

During the meeting, I highlighted that trafficking in and violence against women and girls are cross cutting issues which merit particular attention by other human rights treaty bodies, as well human rights regional mechanisms.

The Meeting of Chairpersons encouraged the European Union (EU) to align its development, trade and aid policies with international human rights law and take into account relevant recommendations of human rights treaty bodies. It suggested that the EU encourage and facilitate ratification by all its Member States of all core international human rights treaties and related optional protocols, especially the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Furthermore, the Meeting also encouraged cooperation between treaty bodies and the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR)on matters related to procedure, methods of work and jurisprudence.

 I would  like to warmly thank Ms. Pimentel who kindly agreed to replace me at the eleventh Inter-Committee Meeting of human rights treaty bodies in Geneva which preceded the Meeting of Chairpersons. Ms. Pimentel was accompanied by Ms. Begum. The outcome of both meetings will be discussed during the third week of the session. Nevertheless, I wish to stress that, among its points of agreement, the Inter-Committee meeting recommended that each treaty body explore ways of reducing the length of its concluding observations to achieve greater efficiency and impact. As you know, our Committee will seek to achieve this goal by discussing this particular item during the current session.


In March 2010, on behalf of the Committee, I attended the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where I focused on the main outcomes of the past two sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

In particular, I touched upon the Committee’s working methods in relation to its follow-up procedure and the methodology that was adopted at our last session to assess States parties reports received under this new procedure. I also informed the Commission about the adoption by the Committee in January 2010 of two statements,  one to strengthen its relationship with NGOs and the second one on its relationship with parliamentarians aimed mainly at clarifying and strengthening the role of national parliaments vis-à-vis the Convention.

I also indicated that the Committee had taken full advantage at its forty-fourth session of its presence in New York to meet with representatives of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), UNIFEM, and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). I emphasized that these exchanges were of utmost importance in our quest to strengthen the existing linkages between the Committee and these entities and that the Committee will strive to ensure that its interaction with the “new entity” will be effective for a better implementation of the Convention. I further indicated that the Committee had continued to work in cooperation and coordination with other treaty bodies on issues of common concern and interest. In that context, I referred to the establishment of a joint CEDAW/CRC working group established at the Committee’s forty-third session and which held its first meeting during our last session with a view to defining a common approach between the two committees in promoting the elimination of harmful traditional practices.

In relation to the theme of the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women, i.e. the fifteen-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, I informed the Commission that the Committee had seized this occasion to adopt, at its last session, a statement in which it highlighted obstacles to the full equality for women, and voiced its concerns at the multiple aspects that discrimination against women encompasses, such as age or disability, and that women at risk, such as women in armed conflicts, migrant and indigenous women, are particularly vulnerable. I also emphasized the strong linkages between the Convention, the Platform for Action and the Beijing+10 outcomes and shared that the Committee had taken these consensus policy documents into account when considering the reports of States parties, and systematically calls on States parties to implement them. I finally reiterated the Committee's readiness to continue its cooperation with the Commission in pursuing our common goal of the elimination of discrimination against women.

I am pleased to report that thirteen Committee members, included myself, participated from 20 to 21 May 2010 in an informal meeting in Paris at the invitation of the French Government. This meeting brought together, in addition to Committee’s members, French parliamentarians, national and international civil society representatives, as well as representatives from OHCHR, UNIFEM, ICRC and IPU. We discussed discriminatory laws and the role of parliaments. We also touched upon the institutional mechanisms at the international level which can contribute to the Committee’s work in relation to discriminatory legislation. Another topic on the agenda was women and conflicts and how to ensure their protection amidst conflicts as well as their full participation in the peace strengthening process and reconstruction phase. Finally, we discussed ways to improve women’s access to health and social protection, in particular in the context of the feminization of HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

This year, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. As you are aware, since this adoption, the Security Council has further elaborated on the situation of women in conflict through its resolutions 1820 and 1888, focusing on the wide spread use of sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. An additional resolution (1889) focusing on the role of women in peace building was also adopted in 2009. The latter is formally linked with SCR 1325 as it requests the Secretary General to submit to the Security Council a set of indicators to track implementation of SCR 1325. I would like to encourage Committee members to seize this occasion to issue a statement on the 10th anniversary of the first resolution ever passed by the UN Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and stresses the importance of women's equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote sustainable peace and security.

At a United Nations High-Level Plenary Meeting to be held from 20 to 22 September 2010 in New York, States will be asked to make a renewed commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goals in the next five years. The “action agenda” they will agree on at this meeting will be crucial in determining whether or not the MDGs become reality by the 2015 target date. At this occasion, it should be stressed once again that the goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women (MDG 3) is vital for every MDG, including improving maternal health and that gender-based discrimination limits the attainment of the MDGs.

As you are aware, we have a very full, but interesting agenda during this session. The Committee will consider six periodic reports, namely from Albania, Argentina, Australia, Fiji, Russian Federation and Turkey. It will also consider an initial report from Papua New Guinea and an exceptional report from India. The Committee will also consider cases under the Optional Protocol to the Convention and discuss various issues, such as draft general recommendations on article 2, on older women, and on economic consequences of divorce. It will also consider reports and information received under its follow-up procedure to concluding observations and will discuss ways to improve the format of its concluding observations.  We will also meet with many non-governmental organizations, representatives of national human rights institutions and parts of the UN family.  I would like to pay particular tribute to these stakeholders who provide such valuable input into our work.

We will once again take advantage of the Committee’s presence in New York to meet with representatives of the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM, and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). These exchanges are of utmost importance in our quest to strengthen the existing linkages between the Committee and these entities, as they are essential to our work.

Colleagues and friends,

I would also be delighted to hear from Committee members who have represented the Committee at official meetings or undertaken work related to the activities of the Committee during our closed meetings.

Thank you very much for your attention.