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Advocacy at the United Nations

The 43rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held from March 1-15, 1999 in New York. Following the Fourth World Conference on Women, the CSW has focused its work plan on reviewing implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, each year reviewing specific critical areas of concern. The CSW concluded its review in 1999 with the sections on women and health and institutional arrangements. In addition to drafting agreed conclusions on health and institutional arrangements, the CSW also considered several resolutions, including ones on HIV/AIDS and women, Palestinian women, women in Afghanistan and the mental health of women. A brief summary of the agreed conclusions on health and institutional arrangements is provided in the IWTC Globalnet #122. For information about the Globalnet, contact the International Women's Tribune Centre (IWTC) by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The agreed conclusions are posted on the Womenwatch website at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/.

In parallel meetings to the official Commission sessions, an open-ended working group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women completed drafting this new mechanism (See article, "Optional Protocal is adopted!"). An additional week was added to the session this year during which the CSW served as the preparatory committee for the fifth year review of the Platform for Action. (For more information, see Women Prepare for the Beijing + 5 Review.)

The Center for Women's Global Leadership participated actively in the Beijing + 5 preparatory committee, the NGO Task Force on Women and Health, and co-sponsored a series of parallel activities. These included: a three-part session on "Strengthening Women's Leadership and Organizations" with United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and IWTC; a panel discussion on Globalization, Women's Work, and Human Rights with UNIFEM and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS); and a day-long training to launch Local Action/Global Change, a women's human rights education manual co-published by the Global Center and UNIFEM.

Immediately following the CSW, the 55th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights was held in Geneva from March 22 to April 30. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, reported to the Commission on a variety of issues. Her 1999 main report looked at domestic violence, focusing on measures that have been taken by governments since her first report on this subject in 1996. In addition, Ms. Coomaraswamy also reported on "Policies and practices that impact women's reproductive rights and contribute, cause or constitute violence against women," as well as on field visits to the United States investigating sexual abuse of women in prisons and to Indonesia and East Timor looking at violence against women in East Timor, Aced and Irian Jaya an d sexual violence directed at ethnic Chinese women. She addressed several issues that have previously received scant attention at the CHR including: so-called honor killings and violence against women because of their sexuality and sexual orientation. These issues were also addressed by Asma Jahangir, recently appointed Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and Param Coomaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers looked at the issue of honor killings in his report (to get these reports, go to http://www.unhchr.ch/.

For the first time, the CHR agenda agenda item on "Integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective." Speaking on this issue were Patricia Flor, Chairperson of the CSW; Angela King, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the UN on Gender and the Advancement of Women; and Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. In addition to those mentioned above, several other Special Rapporteurs also substantively addressed issues of gender including the new Special Rapporteur on Education and the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan.

The Center for Women's Global Leadership participated in a variety of activities during the CHR including the coordination of a small training project for women's human rights advocates and the daily Women's Human Rights Caucus coordinated by the Geneva-based NGO Committee on the Status of Women. In addition, the Global Center along with UNIFEM and IWTC co-sponsored a panel on "Violence Against Women: Challenges on Many Fronts."

The Global Center, in collaboration with a number of partner organizations, also mobilized activities to call attention to two pressing issues. One addressed an "honor killing" that took place while the CHR was in session. Women's human rights defender and lawyer Hina Jilani's life was endangered when a woman seeking divorce was murdered in her office. Following this incident, a death threat was pronounced by fundamentalists against Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani's sister and law partner. Action alerts addressing this situation are available from Women Living Under Muslim Laws (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or can be found on Amnesty International's website at http://www.amnesty.org/news.The Global Center also prepared a petition addressing the war in the former Yugoslavia. The alert, which can be found at http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/ calls for an end to ethnic cleansing and an end to the NATO bombing.

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