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BRIEFING for Thursday, 11 March

43rd SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (CSW) - INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS AND THE 13th MEETING (Thursday, 11 March 1999) The CSW met to continue scheduled informal consultations during the morning session. Delegates discussed the text of the draft agreed conclusions on women and health submitted by the Chairperson of the Commission (E/CN/6/199/L.2), including amendments proposed during informal consultations held earlier this week. The EU and G-77/China proposed several amendments and others, including Pakistan, New Zealand and Canada, made other suggestions to the bracketed sections of the draft. In the afternoon, the CSW convened at 3:00 pm for its thirteenth meeting. As part of the follow-up to the fourth World Conference on Women, delegates heard introductions to the draft resolutions submitted under Agenda Item 3. Azerbaijan introduced a draft resolution entitled, "Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts" (E/CN.6/1999/L.5) under Agenda Item 3 (a). Under Agenda Item 3 (c), the following draft resolutions were submitted:

  • "Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS" (E/CN.6/1999/L.6) - Zambia, on behalf of the African group;
  • "Situation of women and girls in Afghanistan" (E/CN.6/1999/L.7) - the US;
  • "Women and mental health, with emphasis on special groups" (E/CN.6/1999/L.8) - the Philippines;
  • "Palestinian Women" (E/CN.6/199/L.9) - Guyana, on behalf of the G-77/China;

    Two procedural texts were submitted by the Chair entitled:

  • "System-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women, 2002-2005", under agenda item 3(a) (E/CN.6/1999/L.10) and
  • "Enabling the Commission on the Status of Women to continue to carry out its mandate", under agenda item 2 (E/CN.6/1999/L.11).
    Action on all draft proposals will be taken tomorrow.

    The meeting concluded by hearing NGOs'statements. The following NGO speakers made presentations: Losang Rabgey (Transnational Radical Party) on behalf of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women Health Caucus; Mohga Kamal Smith (OXFAM, UK) on behalf of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women Health Caucus; Jeanne Head (International Rights to Life) on behalf of NGO Caucus on Women, Children and Family; Anjana Shakya on behalf of the Asian Caucus and Joan Grant-Cummings on behalf of a group of ten NGOs. The meeting adjourned after the conclusion of the presentations to hold informal consultations on all outstanding texts under Agenda Item 3: the Non-paper as of March 11, 10 am: Draft agreed conclusions on institutional mechanisms, submitted by the Vice-Chairperson of the Commission, Nonhlanhla P.L. Mlangeni (Swaziland). The G-77/China proposed amendments to the draft. Delegates negotiated the bracketed matter in the above mentioned drafts. Tomorrow the CSW will conclude its work for this session.


    The Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group (WG) of the CSW met at 11:00 am to continue discussion on agenda item 6, namely the elaboration of a draft optional protocol to CEDAW. Chair Aloisia W�rgetter (Austria) introduced the two documents sent for translation yesterday. They are:

  • the revised draft optional protocol to CEDAW (E/CN.6/1999/WG/L.2);
  • the draft enabling resolution to the optional protocol (E/CN.6/1999/WG/L.2).

    Both documents were submitted on the basis of informal consultations. The Chair noted that delegates had been given time to study the two documents, and asked for comments from the floor. After several delegates had spoken, the WG agreed to adopt the optional protocol and recommend it to the CSW for its consideration, a decision greeted with a round of applause from those present. There were no objections to the enabling resolution either, and this too was adopted.

    CSW Chair Patricia Flor (Germany), who had joined the WG a few moments earlier, told delegates that the optional protocol was a major breakthrough that followed from the adoption of CEDAW 20 years ago. She acknowledged that at times it had been a painful process to arrive at where they were today, a process that had taken several years to complete. Stressing that what this WG had achieved for women could undoubtedly be considered a success, she added that for the first time women have a complaints and inquiry procedure under CEDAW. The WG's Chair thanked Angela King and Patricia Flor, who left to return to the CSW meeting. The Chair then opened the floor for interpretative statements on the optional protocol, which will be included in the text of the WG's report. About thirty country-representatives took the floor during the morning and afternoon sessions.

    A number of delegates expressed disappointment that the wording was not stronger, particularly in relation to Article 2, which in its final form makes it more difficult for communications to be directed to the Commission without the consent of the alleged victim/victims. Nevertheless, most were confident that the optional protocol still represented a major step forward. Many noted that compromise was needed, with India saying "Everyone is individually displeased but collectively satisfied" with what has been achieved and produced.

    In terms of interpretative statements, Article 2 was the subject of many comments. A considerable number of delegates said the article should be interpreted in the light of practices and rules established in other human rights protocols. Many delegates also wanted a broad interpretation of article 8 regarding the words "grave" and "systematic", although others disagreed. China felt Article 8 should apply to only serious violations on a large scale, and should not cover an individual case. On Article 17, which states that there will be no reservations permitted to this protocol, some felt it could mean that less states will ratify it than may otherwise have been the case. A number of states, such as Egypt, Algeria, India, Israel and China, said that its inclusion in the protocol should not be considered a precedent for other treaties.

    Eight participants spoke on behalf of NGOs. International Womens Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific expressed concern about the wording of Article 2, but said, along with others, that NGOs will take up the challenge to make the protocol a meaningful tool to provide access to justice. Young Womens Christian Association of Australia said it was "deeply regrettable" that a stronger protocol was not achieved. Women on Law and Development in Africa echoed this concern, saying that Article 2 makes it more difficult to work for the rights of the most vulnerable. The European Women's Lobby said the document needs disseminating as widely as possible. Most NGOs called on countries to adopt and ratify the protocol as a priority and called for a broad interpretation of the document.

    The Chair then called for general comments from the floor, and several delegates spoke, After this, Dame Sylvia Cartwright (New Zealand), the representative from the CEDAW Committee, addressed the gathering, praising those involved, and in particular NGOs, for bringing into existence this important instrument.

    Finally the Chair thanked those involved and concluded formalities by asking delegates to approve submitting the report of the WG (E/CN.6/1999WG/L.2) to the CSW for its adoption. With the WG's approval secured, she declared the work of the WG on the optional protocol closed, and concluded the meeting to a standing ovation from participants.


    The Austrian Mission to the UN invites everyone interested to the world premiere introducing the dramatic video series Women Hold Up the Sky for learning about CEDAW and its relevance to women's daily life at all levels of society. There are eight short films and a manual, Between their stories and our realities, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of CEDAW. Monday March 15, 1999, Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information: Tel: 212-749-3156 and Web site:

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    Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.