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BRIEFING for Friday, 12 March

43rd SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (CSW) Fourteenth and Fifteenth Meetings

The fourteenth meeting of the CSW met at 10:30 am on 12 March, 1999. The Chair called on the Commission to resume its consideration of agenda item 3, "Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women", and to take action on the draft proposals. The Commission recommended the following draft resolutions for adoption by the Economic and Social Council:

  • "Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts", (E/CN.6/1999/L.5) agenda item 3 (a);
  • "Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS" (E/CN.6/1999/L.6) agenda item 3 (c);
  • "Palestinian women" (E/CN.6/1999/L.9) agenda item 3(c);
  • "System-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women, 2002-2005", (E/CN.6/1999/L.10) agenda item 3(a); and
  • "Enabling the Commission on the Status of Women to continue to carry out its mandate", (E/CN.6/1999/L.11) agenda item 2.

    Israel and the US made statements expressing their dissent to the draft resolution on "Palestinian women". In its statement to explain why it had called for a vote on this matter, the US held that the draft resolution included provisions that did not relate to the issue of the status of women and were the subject of direct negotiations in the Middle East Peace Process. When the vote took place, 34 countries supported the acceptance of the resolution with 1 against (US) and 4 abstentions. The meeting adjourned at 11:45 am.

    At 3:00 pm the Chair called to order the fifteenth meeting of the CSW and invited it to turn its attention to item 6 of the agenda, entitled "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), including the elaboration of a draft optional protocol to the Convention".

    Aloisia W�rgetter (Austria), Chair of the Working Group (WG) that dealt with this issue, reported that the WG had reached agreement on an optional protocol, an enabling resolution, and various relevant documents at its 3rd meeting, which took place yesterday. She recommended these reports to the CSW for its consideration.

    CSW's Chair then asked the Commission to adopt the Report of the Working Group (contained in documents E/CN.6/1999/WG/L.1 and Add.1) and an informal paper with a compilation of "interpretative statements" on the optional protocol. The Commission agreed to adopt these documents and annex them to its own final report. It then agreed to approve the text of the optional protocol and its enabling resolution (as contained in documents E/CN.6/1999/WG/L.2 and E/CN.6/1999/WG/L.3) for adoption by the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council.

    After a round of applause, the Chair congratulated the WG and its Chair on establishing this instrument for advancing women's rights, which she said is now being adopted after four years of hard negotiation. Angela King, Assistant-Secretary-General and Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, said the CSW's decision today sends the optional protocol on its way to the Economic and Social Council, and then on to the General Assembly, opening the way for it to be adopted and ratified by countries. She said that at that stage it will be up to all of us to turn this instrument into the kind of useful tool all of us have worked so hard for.

    The Chair then asked whether any delegates wished to make a statement on this matter. Twenty-two speakers took the floor. Most were congratulatory, and welcomed agreement on the optional protocol. As well, many praised WG Chair, the Secretariat, and the WG's facilitator, with a number thanking NGOs for their efforts. Some added that they were disappointed with some aspects of the protocol, although it was still a significant achievement. They noted that compromise was needed. Ghana said information about the optional protocol should be disseminated as widely as possible, adding that it was one of the major achievements coming out of Beijing, as it is the legal document that makes governments accountable. The Russian Federation said this was a historic event. Senegal said the protocol should be ratified as soon as possible. The Chair then announced that the Commission had concluded its consideration of agenda item 6, and the afternoon meeting was adjourned. The Commission reconvened at 2:45 am after rescheduling its meeting time several times as negotiations were still underway on the issues of health and institutional mechanisms for advancement of women. No report of the Commission could be adopted as the negotiations were inconclusive. The Chair heard views of several delegates on allocating time for continuing and completing the negotiations. Most favored reconvening on 15 March, at 6:15 pm to complete negotiations. A few delegates feared that this would hamper the outcome of the work of the commission as a preparatory committee for the Beijing +5 process. One delegate proposed reconvening on 22 March, however this was unacceptable to most delegates as many need to return to their capitals. Soon after the Commission adopted a short decision to request the ECOSOC to grant permission for the Commission to continue to meet for an additional day. This decision was arrived at with the understanding that it not affect the priority to be given to the Commission's work as a preparatory committee in the week of 15 -19 March, 1999.

    The CSW will meet on Monday,15 March at 10:00 am acting as the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".

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    Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.