On Tuesday, 26 July 2011, NGO CSW NY hosted a luncheon honoring experts from the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Guests had the opportunity to sit at roundtables with the experts and discuss over lunch the challenges facing the committee and how the General Recommendation (GR) being prepared will attempt to address those questions. Soon-Young Yoon, Chair of the Executive Committee of NGO-CSW NY, opened her introductory statements by affirming the importance of CEDAW, and moreover the individuals who work to make the goals of the Convention a reality:
I remember thinking, this is an elegant—no nonsense document. We don’t need anything else—no Copenhagen Programme of Action or new resolutions. But I was wrong—we did need something else. We needed smart, dedicated people to breathe life into this treaty.
Additionally, a briefing was given by Pramila Patten, CEDAW expert from Mauritius and Chair of the working group on the GR. In her address, Ms. Patten noted the many ways women suffer uniquely in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. Their abuses range from deliberate gender-based attacks to inadvertent cruelties that result from the combined factors of warfare, societal norms, and socioeconomic situations. They are subject to a broad range of human rights violations and often suffer the first and worst effects of economic trouble. They are at a disadvantage in their education and employment opportunities and are often denied effective redress for wrongs suffered. Ms. Patten also pointed out the exclusion of women from the peacebuilding process, a practice that undoubtedly hinders efforts to create a society free of violence and exploitation. She cited a 2008 UNIFEM estimate that “women account for less than 10% of members in formal peace negotiations and less than 2% of signatories to peace agreements.”
Traditionally, reports on the effects of armed conflict tend to incorporate women in the general category of civilians without regard to the different experiences of men and women civilians and this information is usually contained, if at all, in the core document. The particular concerns of women are thus regarded as peripheral in such analyses.
Ms. Patten concluded by emphasizing the effort of the GR to clarify how CEDAW can and must be applied to threatening situations everywhere, even where they may not be defined as armed conflict by international law.
Soon-Young Yoon’s full remarks may be found here.
Pramila Patten’s full remarks may be found here.