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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women opens seventy-fourth session

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination
against Women

21 October 2019

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning opened its seventy-fourth session, hearing a statement by Orest Nowosad, Chief of the Groups in Focus Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work.

Mr. Nowosad recalled that this year marked the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as its Optional Protocol’s twentieth anniversary.  It also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development, which had taken place in Cairo in 1994.  Then, 179 Governments had agreed to a progressive, comprehensive Programme of Action that was the first to place women’s reproductive rights at the centre of an international agreement on population.  Now, 25 years later, the High Commissioner was alarmed that “there seems to be a renewed obsession with controlling and limiting women’s decisions over their bodies and lives”.  In that context, together with Committee members, the custodians of the Convention, and other human rights mechanisms, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would mobilize, hold firm and advance women’s rights.

Hilary Gbedemah, Committee Chairperson, said that the number of States parties to the Convention remained at 189.  The number of States which had accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time had increased from 79 to 80 after the acceptance by Saudi Arabia; acceptance by 126 States parties to the Convention was required to bring the amendment into force.  Since the beginning of the last session, three States parties had submitted their periodic reports, namely Senegal, the Russian Federation and Bolivia.

The Committee adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for the seventy-fourth session, and heard a report on the status of the follow-up reports and updates on the intersessional activities by its Chair and several Committee Experts.

The Committee’s session will take place from 21 October to 8 November 2019, during which the reports of the following States parties will be reviewed: Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Seychelles.  Their reports and all other 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 at the News and Media page of the United Nations Office at Geneva website.

The Committee will reconvene in public today at 3 p.m., to meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions from Iraq, Andorra, Kazakhstan and Seychelles whose reports it will review this week.

Opening Remarks

Orest Nowosad,Chief of the Groups in Focus Section of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,recalled that this year marked the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention as well as its Optional Protocol’s twentieth anniversary.  It also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking International Conference on Population and Development, which had taken place in Cairo in 1994.  Then, 179 Governments had agreed to a progressive, comprehensive Programme of Action that was the first to place women’s reproductive rights at the centre of an international agreement on population.  Now, 25 years later, the High Commissioner was alarmed that “there seems to be a renewed obsession with controlling and limiting women’s decisions over their bodies and lives”.  In that context, together with Committee members, the custodians of the Convention, and other human rights mechanisms, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would mobilize, hold firm and advance women’s rights.

At the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage on 23 September, against the strong opposition of 19 Member States, a group of 58 States had negotiated a text, which stressed that universal health coverage must ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies’ vision for the future of the treaty body system embraced plans to offer a widely simplified reporting procedure, combined with a predictable schedule of reviews and greater coordination and discipline to reduce unnecessary duplication.  It also included the possibility of increasing the capacity of treaty bodies to review States by working in chambers, working groups or country teams.  

Earlier this month, the Secretary-General had informed the staff members about the troubling financial situation facing the United Nations.  He stressed that ultimate responsibility to solver the liquidity crisis facing the regular budget of the United Nations lay with Member States, which had paid only 70 per cent of the total amount needed for the Organization’s regular budget.

A discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council had been held during its forty-second session.  Gender integration required concerted participation in public life.  This was true for the human rights system itself.  While there had been improvement in gender equality of appointments to the human rights mechanisms, such progress was off a low base.  

Adoption of the Agenda and Organization of Work and the Report of the Chairperson

Committee Experts adopted the agenda.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, said that the number of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women remained at 189.  The number of States which had accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time had increased from 79 to 80 after the acceptance by Saudi Arabia; acceptance by 126 States parties to the Convention was required to bring the amendment into force.  Since the beginning of the last session, three States parties had submitted their periodic reports, namely Senegal, the Russian Federation and Bolivia, said the Chair, proceeding to inform the Committee about her intersessional activities.

Committee Experts provided an update on their respective activities during the intersessional period.

Follow-up Reports

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Rapporteur, briefed the Committee about the status of the follow-up reports received in response to the Committee’s concluding observations and recalled that during the seventy-third session, she had met with the representatives of Tanzania and Myanmar, whose follow-up reports were overdue.  At the end of that session, follow-up letters outlining the outcome of assessments of follow-up reports had been sent to Albania, Belarus, Canada, El Salvador, Honduras, the Philippines, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago; first reminders regarding overdue follow-up reports had been sent to Ireland, Micronesia, Rwanda and Sri Lanka.  The Committee had received follow-up reports from Armenia, with a seven-month delay, Burundi with a six-month delay, Germany on time, Italy on time, Jordan with a two-month delay, Kuwait on time, and Ukraine with a four-month delay.  During the current session, first reminders regarding the submission of follow-up reports should be sent to Barbados, Costa Rica, Montenegro, Niger, Nigeria, Romania and Thailand.

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