oPt + 2 more

Women's Commission will hold 47th session at headquarters 3-14 March

Background Release

The Commission on the Status of Women will hold its forty-seventh session from 3 to 14 March at Headquarters, focusing on two thematic issues -- women and the media and violence against women.

During the session, the Commission will be examining the participation and access of women to the media, and information and communication technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women. It will also consider women's human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

A panel discussion on women and the media will be held on 3 March and on violence against women on 4 March. The Commission will also hold, for the first time, a high-level round table on national experiences in institutional capacity building, particularly in relation to the two thematic issues.

In addition, the annual observance of International Women's Day will be held on Friday, 7 March, as part of the session. This year's focus will be gender equality and the Millennium Development Goals.


The Commission will have before it its provisional agenda and organization of work (document E/CN.6/2003/1). Annexed to it are the lists of the Commission's members for the forty-seventh and forty-eight sessions.

Also before the Commission will be the Secretary-General's report on measures taken and progress achieved in the follow-up to and implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century", especially in mainstreaming gender perspectives in entities of the United Nations system (document E/CN.6/2003/2).

The report concludes that a growing number of entities now have gender equality policies and strategies in place, and many are also enhancing efforts to integrate gender perspectives into sectoral policies. During the last year, there has been a marked increase in the number of gender units/focal points, networks, task forces and similar institutional mechanisms established to provide support, and to strengthen capacity for gender mainstreaming in sectoral areas.

Efforts should now focus on identifying the remaining gaps in policy frameworks and strategies and assessing the impact of such strategies, so that future programme, capacity-building and institutional measures can be better designed and targeted to achieve desired outcomes. Among the items the Commission may wish to request be included in the next report are: an overview of monitoring mechanisms for gender mainstreaming that are currently in place in the entities of the United Nations system, and of gaps that have to be addressed; and an assessment of the impact of policies and strategies, particularly with regard to enhanced attention to gender perspectives in sectoral areas.

The Secretary-General's report on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2003/3), covering the period between September 2001 and September 2002, reviews the effects of Israeli settlements and movement restrictions on the situation of Palestinian women, as well as the effects of the unfolding humanitarian crisis. The report provides an overview of the assistance provided to Palestinian women by entities of the United Nations system, particularly with regard to economic activities, humanitarian assistance, education and training, health, the human rights of women and the media.

As the international community seeks ways to end the conflict, the report states that it is important that gender perspectives are highlighted and women are fully involved in the conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives. Also, the collection of data disaggregated by sex, which is currently insufficient, and specific studies on the impact of the crisis on women in particular areas should be encouraged.

As the conflict exacerbates existing hardships and creates new difficulties, continued assistance should focus in particular on such areas as women's employment and economic empowerment, education, health, social welfare and violence against women. Further efforts should be undertaken to explicitly identify and address gender perspectives in all international assistance programmes, in addition to implementing projects specifically targeted to women.

Another report of the Secretary-General (document E/CN.6/2003/4) provides an overview of the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan in 2002 and gender-related assistance provided by the United Nations system. Afghanistan's emergence from 24 years of conflict has led to significant positive changes in women's lives, among them: women are re-emerging as a political and economic force; they participated in decision-making on the peace process and the reconstruction of their country, they were appointed to serve in Government; they are returning to the workforce; and women and girls were able to gain access to education.

In spite of this progress, many challenges to women's full and equal participation in society remain, including: in many parts of the country women face violence; they are primary victims of insecurity, which limits their access to public life and threatens their lives and dignity; and restrictions to the full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and human rights continue to be applied to women by local leaders. The report also includes recommendations for further efforts, including the need for resources specifically targeted to gender equality programmes and projects, the need for increased security and prevention of violence, as well as the importance of a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to relief, reconstruction and development.

The report of the Secretary-General entitled "Joint work plan of the Division of the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights" (document E/CN.4/2003/73-E/CN.6/2003/5), contains their work plan for 2003, as well as an assessment of the implementation of the work plan for 2002. During the implementation of the current joint work plan, the exchange of information between the Office of the High Commissioner, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and the Division for the Advancement of Women continued.

Cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner and the Division for the Advancement of Women on the work of treaty bodies was expected to continue in 2003. This would include the exchange of documents, reports and the results of the work of the treaty bodies, as well as the regular circulation of those documents to the chairpersons and members of the treaty bodies.

The report of the Secretary-General on "Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communication technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women" (document E/CN.6/2003/6), summarizes past efforts of the United Nations system in the area of women and the media and information and communication technologies (ICT). In reviewing the gender dimensions, the report focuses on opportunities, with particular emphasis on women's participation and access to media and ICT. The report then reviews the challenges to and impact on women's empowerment through ICT and new media.

The report notes that a focus on the gender dimensions of ICT was essential not only for preventing an adverse impact of the digital revolution on gender equality or the perpetuation of existing inequalities and discrimination, but also for enhancing women's equitable access to the benefits of information and communication technologies and to ensure that they can become a central tool for the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality.

It recommends that policies, programmes and projects ensure that gender differences and inequalities in the access to and use of ICT are identified and fully addressed, so that such technologies actively promote gender equality and ensure that gender-based disadvantages are not created or perpetuated. Such a perspective should make it possible to reduce, if not eliminate, the gender gap in the digital divide. Efforts are also necessary to increase women's participation in and access to new media opportunities created through ICT.

Among other things, the report recommends the creation of a gender-sensitive enabling environment and integration of gender perspectives in the development and implementation of national policies and strategies in the area of information and communication technologies and media and communication policies;promotion of women's participation and employment in the information society; mobilization of resources to promote gender equality in the media and in information and communication technologies; and inclusiveness and participation in the promotion of gender equality in the information society.

The Commission will also have before it the Secretary-General's report on "Women's human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls" as defined in the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document E/CN.6/2003/7 and Corr.1). The report is based on a description of the activities undertaken in the United Nations in recent years, on the issues of women's human rights and violence against women, which are inextricably linked. The report treats women's human rights and violence against women in two separate parts and focuses primarily on one form of violence which has reached worldwide proportions and attracted the interest of the international community in recent years, namely, trafficking in women and girls.

To combat trafficking in women and girls effectively, it is necessary to adopt an anti-trafficking strategy, which uses a gender-based and human rights approach, as well as a criminal justice approach, according to the report. On this premise, several recommendations of both a general and more specific nature were made for governments, enforcement agencies, and international organizations, including the United Nations system, with the assistance of non-governmental organizations and other actors of civil society to follow.

The report of the Secretary-General on the improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document E/CN.6/2003/8) responds to General Assembly resolution 57/180 of 18 December 2002, which urged the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to realize significant process towards the goal of 50/50 gender distribution in all categories of posts within the United Nations system.

According to the report, the Secretary-General endorses several actions to accelerate the meeting of that goal. Those actions include the further analysis of the probable cause of slow advancement, creation of gender-sensitive work/life policies, finalization of user-friendly guidelines on sexual harassment, establishment of incremental targets in human resource action plans, appointment of more women at senior levels in the Secretariat, and cooperation with Member States and non-governmental organizations to inform more women of vacancies.

In a letter dated 31 October 2002 and addressed to the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women (document E/CN.6/2003/9), the President of the Economic and Social Council requests follow-ups on a list of four resolutions and decisions, adopted by the Council in 2002, which are annexed to the letter.

The report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions (document E/CN.6/2003/10) summarizes steps taken by the Commission to follow up on policy guidance provided by the Council to its functional commissions in 2002. It also proposes additional steps the Commission could take in that regard, particularly to highlight gender perspectives in the work of the Council and its other subsidiary bodies. For example, the Commission could bring the output of its consideration concerning participation and access of women to the media, to the attention of the preparatory process for the World Summit on the Information Society.

The Secretary-General's note on the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the elimination of violence against women (document E/CN.6/2003/11 -- E/CN.4/2003/121) transmits that report's contents to the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Human Rights.

According to the document, UNIFEM uses its Trust Fund to award grants to initiatives that attempt to eliminate violence against women. It also supports programmes focused on strengthening integrated responses to such violence, is increasing research and data to better understand such violence's causes and prevalence, and has been assessing regional initiatives in that arena.

Background on Commission

The Commission was established as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council in 1946 to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate action in the field of women's rights.

With the objective of promoting the implementation of equal rights for men and women, the Commission's mandate was expanded in 1987. Following the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, the Commission began integrating a follow-up process to the Conference into its work programme, playing a catalytic role and regularly reviewing critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action.


The Commission began with 15 members and now consists of 45 elected by the Council for four-year terms. Members are appointed by governments and are elected on the following basis: 13 from African States, 11 from Asian States, four from Eastern European States, nine from Latin American and Caribbean States, and eight from Western European and Other States. The Commission meets annually for a period of 10 working days.

The 2003 membership of the Commission is as follows: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania and United States.

The Bureau of the Commission for the current session consists of Othman Jerandi (Tunisia), Chairperson; Lala Ibrahimova (Azerbaijan), Vice Chairperson-cum-Rapporteur; Birgit Stevens (Belgium), Vice Chairperson; Fernando Estellita Lins de Salvo Coimbra (Brazil), Vice Chairperson; and Kyung-wha Khang (Republic of Korea), Vice Chairperson.