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BRIEFING for Thursday, 4 March

To mark the occasion of International Women's Day, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed participants at a meeting organized by the Group on Equal Rights for Women in the UN.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan observed that Monday 8 March would mark the last International Women's Day of the 20th century, which had seen the best and the worst of human endeavor. He pointed out that when the current century opened, women were launching the remarkable movement for an equal share in decision-making. Now as it comes to a close, many countries have written into law the equal enjoyment of human rights. He said the world has identified violence against women in its various forms as a clear violation of women's rights. However the UN Secretariat was still short of the goal it had set for itself of achieving full gender balance by the year 2000. He emphasized that women were not the feel-good factors of international affairs but were half of humankind. He urged all Member States to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). (RealAudio available below)

US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Kofi Annan for being a "true champion of women's rights and human rights." She said human rights begin in our hearts and minds, then noted some recent accomplishments, including legislative changes to promote women's rights, such as bans on female genital mutilation (FGM) in several countries. Noting the importance of UN conferences, she highlighted what was achieved at Nairobi and Beijing, and praised UNIFEM for its work. She stated that no nation can hope to move forward if its women and children are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, as their suffering will affect their families and their society. She then raised the problem of trafficking of women and girls. Observing that women are particularly vulnerable to economic crisis and civil conflict, she called for women to receive access to education, credit, paid work and choice over their lives, including control of their reproductive rights. (RealAudio available below)

The seventh meeting of the CSW commenced today at 11:30am with a presentation by experts on agenda item 3(c), which relates to institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women. The panelists were: Jaraslova Moserova, Vice-Chair, European Integration Committee, Czech Parliament (Czech Republic); Dr. Rounaq Jahan, Senior Research Scholar, Columbia University, New York (Bangladesh); Dr. Glenda P. Simms, Executive Director, Bureau of Women's Affairs, Jamaica (Jamaica); and Dr. Shirin M. Rai, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Warwick, UK (India). The panelists highlighted issues concerning: accountability; autonomy; representation of women's interests; institutional strengthening; and mainstreaming of gender issues. The Chair then opened the floor to delegates for questions and comments. Delegates from a number of countries, including China, Zambia, Spain and Austria raised issues, and the panelists responded. The meeting adjourned at 1:30 pm.

The commission met for its eighth meeting at 3:30 pm to continue its dialogue on the topic of institutional mechanisms under agenda item 3(c). The floor was open to delegates to participate. The EU highlighted the need for governments to position the leading national gender unit at the highest possible level of government and ensure that national machineries as well as focal points within specific institutions are also supported. NGO delegates that addressed the gathering included: NGO Caucus on Institutional Mechanisms, International Union of Local Authorities, Huairous Commission, African Women NGO Caucus, Third World Network African Secretariat and Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children. The NGOs highlighted the need for effective partnerships between civil society and the state and between civil society and the international organizations such as the UN and its agencies in the implementation of the Platform for Action. The commission will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 am in conference room 1.

The Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group (WG) of the CSW met informally shortly after 11:00 am today to continue discussion on agenda item 6, namely the elaboration of a draft optional protocol to CEDAW. Negotiations on the bracketed sections of the text continued with Articles 7, 14, 12, 6, and 4. Some minor changes to the text were agreed to, including clearing brackets from Article 14 and Article 4 paragraph 1. Most sections were referred to the "informal informals" part of the negotiations. The meeting closed at 1:30 pm. The day's "informal informals" negotiations commenced at 3:00 pm, with a reworked draft of Article 2 set down for discussion.

To mark International Women's Day, a global videoconference on the elimination of violence against women will be organized as a UN inter-agency event. It will take place on March 8, 1999 from 9:30 am to 11:00 am at the UN General Assembly Hall, UN, New York. It will be opened by the Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The videoconference will link five sites: Strasbourg, Nairobi, New Delhi, Mexico City and New York. The event will be the first of its kind ever to be held in the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The videoconference will feature innovative strategies for addressing gender-based violence worldwide. Different manifestations of violence against women and girls will be discussed. For further information and reserve seats call : 212- 906 -6339

Today's photo and RealAudio highlights

Address by Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Kofi Annan

A panel discussion on the theme "Equality for Women", organized by the Group on Equal Rights for Women in the United Nations, was held today, 4 March 1999, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, to observe 1999 International Women's Day. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, and the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressed the meeting. Panellists included Ms. Agn�s Marcaillou, President of the Group on Equal Rights for Women in the United Nations (GERWUN), Ms. Susana Chiarotti, Regional Coordinator, Comit� de Am�rica Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer, Ms. Lorna Myers, Director, Girls' Choir of Harlem, Ms. Penninah Ogada, Researcher ("Property Ownership for Women in Kenya"), North-Eastern University (Boston).

RealAudio of Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech

RealAudio of Kofi Annan's speech

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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.