IWTC Women's GlobalNet #316
Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide

NGOs are important for CEDAW – Take part
Sylvia Braun
January 9, 2007

1.     CEDAW Committee holds 37th, 38th and 39th Sessions in 2007

2.     Countries Reporting on CEDAW in 2007

3.     The Role of NGOs

4.     Shadow/Alternative Reports and International Women’s Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific (IWRAW – AP)

5.     IWRAW-AP’s Guide on CEDAW

6.     Connecting CEDAW with UNSCR 1325

 

1. CEDAW COMMITTEE HOLDS 37TH, 38TH AND 39TH SESSIONS IN 2007

A committee of 23 highly respected independent legal experts who are responsible for monitoring Member States compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) will convene the 37th Session of the CEDAW Committee at UN headquarters in New York from 15 January to 2 February 2007. This will be the first of three sessions to be held in 2007, the 38th session will take place from 14 May to 1 June and the 39th session from 23 July to 10 August, 2007.

 

CEDAW, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, was the first international human-rights instrument to explicitly define all forms of discrimination against women as fundamental human-rights violations.  Member States that ratify CEDAW (as of November 2006, there  are 185 countries) are required to report to the CEDAW Committee every four years on progress made in the implementation of CEDAW at national level.  During the reporting sessions, government representatives are encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee regarding gaps and challenges. With an Optional Protocol to CEDAW coming into force in 2000,  the CEDAW Committee may now consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted all national remedies,

 

For further information about the members visit http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/members.htm

 

2.Countries reporting on cedaw in 2007

Countries reporting at the 37th Session: Tajikistan (Initial Report), Austria, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Greece, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Suriname, Vietnam (all Periodic Reports).

 

Countries reporting at the 38th Session: Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Serbia, Syrian Arab Republic, Vanuatu (all Initial Reports).

 

Countries reporting at the 39th Session: Cook Islands (Initial Report), Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Estonia, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore (all Periodic Reports).

 

More information: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/37sess.htm

 

3. the Role of NGOs

As governments interpret their treaty obligations to CEDAW in diverse ways -- ranging from reluctance to active incorporation of provisions into national legislation--

NGOs have a crucial role to play in shaping government action.  

- One, NGOs can keep the CEDAW provisions in the media and on the public agenda thereby reminding States of their obligations.

- Two, NGOs are better placed to forge links with communities and households and can feed information to and from State institutions to citizens.

- Three, NGOs’ relationships at community and household level enable them to develop alternatives to State models of intervention.  

- Four, NGOs are well equipped to monitor State activities regarding CEDAW and their impact.

NGOs can also participate in the CEDAW process in the reporting by States parties, the formulation of General Recommendations, and in the composition of the CEDAW Committee.

 

4. Shadow/Alternative Reports and the global to local  program of international women’s rights action watch--asia Pacific

One specific way in which NGOs can participate in the CEDAW process is by writing a shadow or alternative report. A shadow report is a document that an NGO prepares with access to the government report submitted to the CEDAW Committee. When no government report is available, the NGO document is called the alternative report.

 

Shadow/alternative reports serve as important complements to the official government report.  Whereas government reports tend to be more descriptive regarding what is being done to implement CEDAW at the national level, shadow/alternative reports are often more analytical and/or critical in their assessment.   Well-prepared shadow/alternative reports provide the CEDAW Committee with insight as to questions that might be posed to governments as they present their reports.  

 

For very useful instructions and information about this, please visit http://www.iwraw-ap.org/using_cedaw/writing_shadow.htm

 

International Women’s Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) is an international NGO that provides technical support and mentoring to NGOs using CEDAW as a tool for applying international human rights standards at the national level and in a wide range of contexts. Although IWRAW-AP is based in Malaysia and carries “Asia Pacific” in its name, it supports NGOs all over the world.  

 

A particularly valuable service is provided through its “From Global to Local” program that aims to assist women’s groups, in countries reporting to the CEDAW Committee, to prepare shadow/alternative reports and facilitate the flow of alternative information to the CEDAW Committee, in order to help increase the impact and effectiveness of the review of the government report.  

 

At the 37th session, IWRAW-AP will assist women’s groups from Kazakhstan, Poland, Tajikistan, India, Vietnam, Maldives, Azerbaijan, Suriname and Colombia to present their shadow/alternative reports.

 

To learn more: http://www.iwraw-ap.org/aboutus.htm

 

5. iwraw-ap’s resource guide on cedaw ‘our rights are not optional’ now available through women, ink.

IWRAW-AP’s recent 127 page publication about CEDAW, “Our Rights Are Not Optional,” is now available through Women, Ink.   This easy-to-use resource guide is designed to provide information and materials to be used to strengthen the efforts of women’s rights advocates and governments, which are working to promote the effective implementation of CEDAW at the national level.  

 

The first section provides a general overview of CEDAW and its Optional Protocal, and their use as tools for social change.  The next section discusses the legal, political and strategic dimensions in promoting ratification of the protocol.  Lastly, the third section focuses on enhancing advocacy and use of the protocol and raises political and ethical issues NGOs working with this protocol should consider.  A series of handouts is included at the end of each section.

 

To order, see: Women, Ink. online at: www.womenink.org

 

6. Connecting CEDAW with UNSCR 1325

Increasingly, CEDAW’s monitoring mechanism is being used to press for action on other issues or resolutions that have no accountability mechanisms.  A case in point is the landmark Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which has no accountability mechanism.  Given the relevancy of SCR 1325 to women in many of the countries reporting in 2007 (13 of the 36 countries reporting in 2007 are in conflict or post-conflict situations), it will be interesting to note the extent to which key actors involved in the CEDAW process — governments, NGOs, and the CEDAW Committee -- use CEDAW and SCR 1325 together in order to broaden, strengthen and operationalize gender equality in the context of conflict, peace building and post-conflict reconstruction.

 

For further information on connecting points between CEDAW and SCR 1325, download UNIFEM’s, publication “Women Peace & Security CEDAW and SCR 1325: A Quick Guide” at http://www.womenwarpeace.org/UNIFEM_CEDAW_and_1325.pdf

 

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