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Committee on the elimination of discrimination against women opens seventy-seventh online session

26 October 2020

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its seventy-seventh online session. It heard a statement by Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Committee also adopted its agenda and organization of work.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro said that since the Committee’s last session in July, the COVID-19 pandemic had continued to impact women and girls disparately, often exacerbating gender inequalities. According to the International Labour Organization, 740 million women worked in the informal economy, with limited or no access to health insurance, social protection or paid sick leave. At the same time, women shouldered three quarters of the burden of unpaid care. The lack of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis had further increased their economic insecurity. Gender-based violence against women continued to be a pandemic within the pandemic. For every three months of lockdown, the United Nations Population Fund expected an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence. In that regard, he commended Committee members for the adoption of a statement with the title “Global anti-racism protests must herald a new era in human rights, social and gender justice”. The crisis, however, had also shown possible ways of “building back better”. For example, many companies had embraced flexible working arrangements.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro said that on 14 September, the co-facilitators for the 2020 treaty body review, the Permanent Representatives of Morocco and Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, had issued their report on the state of the United Nations human rights treaty body system. They had recommended, inter alia, an open and transparent web-based electoral platform to evaluate the merits, the independence and the diversity of treaty body candidates, and the simplified reporting procedure as the default procedure for periodic reports. At her interactive dialogue with the Third Committee of the General Assembly on 14 October, the High Commissioner had welcomed the recommendations of the co-facilitators and invited States to prioritize adjusting the current funding formula of the treaty body system in General Assembly resolution 68/268 to fit a predictable review calendar, and supporting the digital shift, in particular a more performing and accessible on-line platform for treaty body work.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and of the women, peace and security agenda. The unprecedented crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic had given new meaning and urgency to the women, peace and security agenda and had shown what types of services were ‘essential’ to women and girls – from healthcare to childcare. As outlined in this year’s report of the Secretary-General on women, peace and security, far too many peace negotiations took place without meaningful participation of women. And the levels of impunity for conflict-related violence against women, including sexual violence and killings of women human rights defenders, remained high.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro concluded by saying that this would be a challenging session for the Committee, because it would have to manage different time zones, spanning from Peru to Japan. He expressed sincere appreciation for the flexibility and commitment that the Committee was demonstrating in these exceptional circumstances to ensure the continuity of its important mandate and avoid a protection gap for women and girls worldwide.

Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, said that since the last session, the number of States parties that had ratified or acceded to the Convention remained at 189. Similarly, the number of States parties that had accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time remained at 80. A total of 126 States parties to the Convention were currently required to accept the amendment in order to bring it into force, in accordance with its provisions. The number of States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention remained at 114.

Saint Kitts and Nevis had submitted its initial report and four States parties had submitted their periodic reports to the Committee since the beginning of the last session, namely Ecuador, Mauritania, Panama and the United Arab Emirates. Also since the last session, two States parties had informed the Committee of their decision to submit their future periodic reports under the simplified reporting procedure, namely Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Chair of the Committee and Committee Experts then provided an update on their respective activities during the intersessional period.

The Committee’s session will take place online from 26 October to 5 November. Dialogues with State parties have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Documentation, including the agenda and the programme of work, can be found at the session webpage.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/. Meeting summaries in English and French are available on the Meeting Summaries page of the United Nations Office at Geneva website.

The Committee will reconvene in public at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 5 November, to conclude the session.

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For use of the information media; not an official record