International Bulletin - Spring 1997
The 41st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In honor of that anniversary. the first day's morning session was given over to a commemorative ceremony.
Mr. Kofi Annan,, the new Secretary-General, opened the proceedings by stating the three guiding principles of the CSW: freedom & equality for women; women as agents for development; and women's participation in the peace process. He said that CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) is a great accomplishment of the CSW, and pledged to give women's issues top priority in the business of the Secretariat.
Sharon Brennan-Haylock welcomed special guests and former CSW Chairwomen, including Minerva Bernardino (Uruguay) who attended in her wheelchair, and was one of four women who signed the UN Charter in 1945. Several other former Chairwomen were present or sent greetings.
A number of prominent NGOs were introduced, including PPSEAWA member Esther Hymer, who was at the Charter signing in San Francisco in 1945 for the Business and Professional Women. Esther is now 98, and still active, and said it was a great joy to remember her years of work with NGOs, governments and the Secretariat. Also cited was Kunying Supatra Masdit, of Thailand, who will be remembered for her splendid work in the organization of the NGO Forum in Huairo, China, in 1995. She said it was good to have the NGOs' past contributions recognised, but now it is time to move forward.
Angela King praised the Secretaries General of the four World Conferences on Women, and told what they were doing now. One, Helvi Sipila, of Finland, who headed the Mexico Conference in 1975, was present and the ceremony concluded with congratulations from one government delegate from each of the UN's five geographic regions.
This year's session was organised along the lines first tried out last year. During the first week, each of the four topics chosen from the Platform for Action was first presented by a panel of five experts from: two governments, one international firm, one NGO, and one UN agency. The Panel was followed by a "Dialogue Among Governments" which was supposed to be spontaneous responses to what the Panel experts said, but which often was simply prepared statements of what each country is already doing about the subject. During the second week, governments were supposed to have informal consultations among themselves, resulting in "generally agreed conclusions." While half of each delegation worked on the above, the other halves were working on an optional protocol to CEDAW to set up a mechanism whereby women who have been discriminated against can complain to the UN.
Of course, the NGOs were busy also. There was a daily briefing for everybody at 9AM, a lobbying-strategy session every evening and briefings and/or workshops for special interest groups at various times throughout the day. The daily briefing by the US delegation was attended by people from many countries besides the US for its broad overview & openness of information.
Last Modified: June 05, 2010