Bahamas Still Violating United Nations Treaty

Tuesday 05th, October 2010 / 08:24 Published by

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women this morning opened its forty-seventh session, hearing a statement from Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and organization of work for the session. The Committee also heard reports from the Chairperson on various issues, including on the activities of Committee Members between sessions.

In his opening statement, Mr. Salama said that he was certain that members of the Committee would welcome, as he did, the news that the Secretary-General had appointed on 14 September Ms. Michelle Bachelet, as Under Secretary-General for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women, which brought together the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). This newly created entity was tasked with accelerating progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. Furthermore, an international seminar on Harmful Traditional Practices and Human Rights would take place from 10 to 13 October in Sion, the last day of which was set aside for a special meeting between the members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to discuss the development of the joint general comment on harmful traditional practices by the working group established with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Naela Gabr, the Chairperson of the Committee, reporting on activities undertaken between the Committee’s forty-sixth and forty-seventh sessions, said that Singapore and Bulgaria had deposited their instruments of acceptance with the Secretary-General to the amendment to the Convention, bringing the number of States that had accepted the amendment to 58. There were currently 99 States parties to the optional protocol. Ms. Gabr then went on to update the Committee on some of her activities as Chair since the last session as well as other activities that might be of interest to Committee Members. The Chair and thirteen other Committee Members had participated in an informal meeting in Paris at the invitation of the French government from 20 to 21 May. This meeting brought together, in addition to Committee Members, French parliamentarians, national and international civil society representatives as well as representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNIFEM, the International Committee on the Red Cross, and the Inter Parliamentary Union. The discussion focused on discriminatory laws and the role of parliament.

When the Committee reconvenes this afternoon at 3 p.m. it is scheduled to hold a meeting with non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions to discuss the situation in countries to be reviewed by the Committee during the first week of the session.

Statements

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Director of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had addressed the Human Rights Council at its fifteenth session, which began on 13 September and ran until 1 October, where she stressed the need for pressing human rights protection both in emergencies and chronic human rights situations. In particular she addressed the need for protection of human rights defenders. The High Commissioner also drew the Council’s attention to reports presented to her Office, including the report on discrimination against women in law and practice, and on how the issue was addressed throughout the United Nations human rights system. As part of the thematic study on this topic, the Council also held a half day discussion on the issue in order to consider taking further possible action on discrimination against women.

Mr. Salama also wanted to inform the Committee that on 1 October, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing a new mechanism, in the form of a Working Group on the discrimination against women in law and practice. This was a victory after many years of advocacy, research and lobbying from stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the Office itself and key States, both with the Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Council. The resolution specifically asked the Working Group to work in close coordination with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Commission on the Status of Women and UN Women, and to make the reporting available to the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women and UN Women.

Mr. Salama went on to say that it was fitting to note at the start of the session that this month marked the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), the landmark resolution on women, peace and security. Since then, the Security Council had not diminished the importance it attached to this theme, adopting three additional resolutions from 2008 to present. The new resolutions, which built upon SCR 1325, included: SCR 1820 (2008) and SCR 1888 (2009), which addressed the situation of sexual violence in conflict, and SCR 1889 (2009), which aimed to strengthen women’s participation in peace-building. These resolutions reminded States of their international human rights obligations with regard to women, peace and security.

Mr. Salama said that he was certain that members of the Committee would welcome, as he did, the news that the Secretary-General appointed on 14 September Ms. Michelle Bachelet as Under Secretary-General for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women, which brought together the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). This newly created entity was tasked with accelerating progress in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Mr. Salama said that he was also pleased to advise the Committee that the High Commissioner’s repeated call on different stakeholders to reflect on how to strengthen the treaty body system, had, as they well knew, led to a number of initiatives. Mr. Salama said that he had recently returned from a meeting by treaty body experts on this topic held in Poznan, to which all Chairpersons of treaty bodies were invited. Ms. Violet Awori represented CEDAW at the meeting, which was organized by the University of Poznan with the support of Polish authorities. At the meeting, the participants reflected on, among other things, the independence of members and the enhancement of the role of the Chairs. The outcome document of the meeting was undergoing a final review and would be circulated shortly. In addition, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights intended to facilitate consultations among treaty body members through the organization of a series of consultations involving the eight treaty bodies that had a reporting procedure. These consultations would be held on a Saturday during treaty body sessions taking place between now and the end of June 2011.

Furthermore, an international seminar on Harmful Traditional Practices and Human Rights would take place from 10 to 13 October in Sion, the last day of which was set aside for a special meeting between members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to discuss the development of the joint general comment on harmful traditional practices by the working group established with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Turning to practical issues, Mr. Salama said that the Human Rights Treaty division was well aware of the needs of the various Committees and worked closely with all the relevant units of the UN Office at Geneva to ensure that the highest possible level of servicing could be provided to them. Unfortunately, the demands on the conference servicing units in Geneva had grown tremendously in recent years, not least due to the explosive growth of documentation needed by the Human Rights Council, and the Committees had felt the impact. Mr. Salama said the Office was in discussions with the translation services and other units to see how to streamline and make the most effective use of the limited resources available to them.

In conclusion, Mr. Salama said that this Committee session would be busy with six reports, many of which were combined reports, several draft general recommendations, and eight lists of issues set for adoption during the pre-sessional working group, in addition to a number of draft views on communications approved by the Working Group last week that would be reviewed. Mr. Salama closed by wishing the Committee a very successful and productive session.

NAELA GABR, Committee Chairperson, said that there remained 186 States parties to the Convention, while Singapore and Bulgaria had deposited their instruments of acceptance with the Secretary-General to the amendment to the Convention, bringing the number of States that had accepted the amendment to 58. There were currently 99 States parties to the optional protocol. During the past year, States parties continued to object to reservations which appeared to be contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or which were so broad that it was unclear to what extent the reserving State felt bound by the obligations of the Convention. The Chairperson was happy to report that two States, Malaysia and Maldives, had withdrawn their reservations.

Ms. Gabr then went on to update the Committee on some of her activities as Chair since the last session as well as other activities that might be of interest to Committee Members. The Chair and 13 other Committee Members had participated in an informal meeting in Paris at the invitation of the French government from 20 to 21 May. This meeting brought together, in addition to Committee Members, French parliamentarians, national and international civil society representatives as well as representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNIFEM, the International Committee on the Red Cross, and the Inter Parliamentary Union. The discussion focused on discriminatory laws and the role of parliament.

The Committee had also been active in participating in panel discussions and seminars relating to women’s issues. Ms. Victoria Popescu spoke on the plenary panel discussion on discrimination against women in law and practice, which was held at the Human Rights Council’s fifteenth session on 20 September 2010. Ms. Violet Awori participated in the International Seminar of Experts on the Reform of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies, held from 27 to 29 September 2010 in Poznan, Poland, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Faculty of Law of the University of Poznan. The focus of the discussion related to the enhancement of the impact of treaty bodies on human rights protection.

Ms. Gabr went on to say that the Committee had a very full, but interesting, agenda during the session. The Committee would consider five periodic reports, from Burkina Faso, the Czech Republic, Malta, Tunisia and Uganda. Unfortunately, the Bahamas, which was also scheduled to present its initial report during the forty-seventh session, cancelled due to unforeseen exigencies on 30 September 2010. The Committee would also consider an exceptional report from India. The Committee would consider cases under the Optional Protocol to the Convention and discuss various issues, such as the draft general recommendation No. 27 on older women and protection of their human rights and the draft general recommendation on Article 2 of the Convention, for example. It was hoped that the draft general recommendation on older women would be adopted at this session. The Committee would also consider reports and information received under its follow-up procedure to concluding observations and would discuss ways to improve the format of its concluding observations. They would also meet with many non-governmental organizations, representatives of national human rights institutions and parts of the UN family. Ms. Gabr wanted to pay particular tribute to these stakeholders who provided such valuable input into the Committee’s work.

Ms. Gabr said that as this was her last session as Chairperson, she wanted to thank everyone for their support during her tenure as Chair and she also wanted to take this opportunity to recognize the outgoing members of the Committee for the significant contributions they had made to the work of the Committee and the rights of women. Ms. Gabr also thanked the outgoing Committee secretary, Ms. Natacha Foucard, for her professionalism and dedication. She wished Ms. Foucard the very best in her new position.

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