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CSW-43
New York,
1 - 19 March

BRIEFING for Monday, 1 March 1999

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began its 43rd session at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where it will be in session from 1-19 March, 1999. It will discuss the two critical areas of: women and health and institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women. In addition it will also consider a review of the mainstreaming of gender in UN organizations and the impact of population ageing on men and women. The open-ended parallel working group of the Commission will meet from 1-12 March, 1999 to continue drafting of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The second week of the commission will serve as the Preparatory Committee for Beijing +5, and the third week will be devoted to activities in its capacity as the Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly Special Session entitled: Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century, to be held in New York, 5-9 June, 2000.

Opening Plenary
Patricia Flor (Germany), Chairperson of the Commission, emphasized in her opening statement that the CSW as the main UN body for the advancement of women cannot ignore the plight of women and girls in the area of health and has a duty to make action-oriented recommendations about possible remedies. Since such discussions would touch on sensitive issues, consensus could be achieved if deliberations were approached with an open mind and a pledge to not reopen or renegotiate Beijing. She commended the draft programme of work as contained in document E/CN.6/1999/1 for consideration by the session. (RealAudio of the speech)
Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General, Division for Social and Economic Affairs, addressed the gathering and highlighted the over-arching importance of the two issues being taken up by the Commission in its present session, since gender equality issues are relevant to other conference processes such as Rio, Cairo, Vienna and others. The challenge is to make this cross-cutting issue operational at country-level and connect the processes in this conference with other conference-processes through the issue of institutional mechanisms for advancement of women.(RealAudio of the speech)
Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women in her introductory statement to the session drew attention to the urgent action required in the issues to be taken up for discussion. The most compelling issue emerging from the experiences in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action is whether the international community was able to challenge successfully old paradigms and institutions perpetuating gender discrimination, and make gender equality a reality. She urged those Member States who had not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to do so. (RealAudio of the speech)
Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) introduced document E.CN.6/1999/6 (Note to the Secretary-General transmitting information provided by UNIFEM on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 50/166). The document highlights its work under three initiatives: Regional Campaigns to Eliminate Violence Against Women; Trust Fund to Support Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women; and Voices in Cyberspace - Breaking the Silence. The Commission then began consideration of Agenda item 3 (b): Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, emerging issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting the situation of women or equality between men and women; and item 4: Initiation of the comprehensive review and appraisal of the implementation of the Platform for Action and preparation of the Special Session of the General Assembly in the year 2000. Various country representatives and NGOs then began making their presentations which continued during the afternoon session. (RealAudio of the speech)
Various countries and NGOs discussed their experiences and successes, and commented on the key issues. More than twenty delegates made statements. Key issues covered included: improving women�s access to health services; promoting the role of women in decision-making; empowering women; mainstreaming of the gender perspective; overcoming a lack of resources; emphasizing capacity-building; mitigating the impact of economic crises and globalization; and preparing for the challenges posed by an ageing population. The Holy See expressed concern about ambiguous language relating to women�s health, and about the emphasis on women�s reproductive health, which it feared had been to the detriment of other issues, such as health issues relating to tropical diseases.

The Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group
The Open�ended Ad Hoc Working Group (WG) of the CSW met from 3pm-5:25pm today to discuss agenda item 6, namely the elaboration of a draft optional protocol to CEDAW. This is the WG�s fourth meeting, and it was opened by Chairperson Aloisia Woergetter (Austria), who said the aim was to finalize the text of the draft protocol and to shape a strong and enhanced procedure for the implementation of the Women�s Convention. The WG would begin with a short debate to address matters in a general way, and this would be followed by informal meetings on the outstanding brackets in the draft protocol. The objective was to finalize an agreement by Wednesday, 10 March. Discussions would start with Article 2, followed by Articles 10, 11 and 11bis. The informal meetings will not be held at the same time as plenary sessions.
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela King, then talked about the progress made by the Working Group so far, and said agreement on the protocol would be timely given that this is the 20th anniversary of CEDAW. The Working Group Committee also includes, inter alia, Vivian Pliner-Josephs (Secretary of the Working Group) and Sylvia Cartwright.
After these introductory statements, there was a general debate on the optional protocol. Thirty-three participants made interventions, including 31 delegates representing countries, 1 on behalf of an international organization, and one NGO. Most participants pledged their full support to efforts to finalize the optional protocol at this meeting. They stressed that only a few outstanding issues have yet to be agreed upon, and that consensus is possible if delegates are willing to compromise. A majority said they want Article 20 to state that no reservations will be permitted by those who agree to the Protocol, although Cote d�Ivoire expressed some reservations about this on the grounds that it may discourage some states from joining. The United States also expressed its concerns. Japan and several others noted that the optional protocol needs to be framed in such a way that it is widely agreed to and signed. Several delegates said it should be consistent with mechanisms established in other human rights protocols. Many also discussed the importance and scope of Article 2, which as currently drafted deals with communications submitted by or on behalf of individuals or groups claiming to be victims of a violation/violations of the rights set forth in the Convention. Several cautioned that this article is important and must be worded carefully. A number of delegates also highlighted the important role of NGOs.
Informal meetings begin tomorrow, and the Working Group will convene at 3pm.

Photo and RealAudio highlights from the Opening Plenary

Scenes from the Plenary floor
Patricia Flor (Germany), Chairperson of the Commission, emphasized in her opening statement that the CSW as the main UN body for the advancement of women cannot ignore the plight of women and girls in the area of health and has a duty to make action-oriented recommendations about possible remedies.
Nitin Desai during his address to Plenary

Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General, Division for Social and Economic Affairs, addressed the gathering and highlighted the over-arching importance of the two issues being taken up by the Commission in its present session, since gender equality issues are relevant to other conference processes such as Rio, Cairo, Vienna and others.

Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women in her introductory statement to the session drew attention to the urgent action required in the issues to be taken up for discussion.

Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) introduced a document highlighting its work under three initiatives: Regional Campaigns to Eliminate Violence Against Women; Trust Fund to Support Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women; and Voices in Cyberspace - Breaking the Silence

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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.