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Statement for the Regional consultation on CEDAW draft general recommendation No. 40

Distinguished members of the Committee,

Distinguished panellists,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

I am delighted to address you today, at the end of this very important two-day first regional expert consultation on CEDAW’s draft general recommendation No. 40 on the equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making systems.

I would like to begin by thanking all colleagues involved in the organisation of this regional expert consultation, especially UN Women for having taken the lead.

The regional expert consultations are essential fora to hear from various local stakeholders about issues addressed in the general recommendation that are of particular relevance for the respective regions and to issue feedback on the draft to strengthen the relevance of the draft for reaching equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making systems in a region.

While I could not attend all sessions, I joined yesterday’s discussion on parity, I have been briefed by my able colleague, Celine Georgi, about your very rich discussions, challenges and priorities identified and solutions shared, and I would like to extend my thanks to the distinguished panellists and participants for their contributions over these two days , which are of key importance for the elaboration process of the general recommendation as an authoritative interpretation by the Committee of the Convention.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I congratulate the Committee on the first draft of general recommendation No. 40, which underscores the need for the long overdue implementation of women’s right to equal and inclusive representation in decision-making systems. Draft GR 40 is a strong document that provides innovative, implementable, and legally sound recommendations to achieve equal representation in decision-making systems in both the public and private sectors, and to address the legal and practical barriers to women’s equal access to decision-making.

Importantly, draft GR 40 also underlines that equal and inclusive representation, in addition to being a human right, is also a prerequisite for a peaceful, just, and resilient world order, which I hear has also been discussed over these two days. As expressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on 8 March 2024: “Without women at the tables of power, there can be no peace. No justice. No democracy. Without women - in all their diversity - there is absolutely no progress at all.”

Let me also highlight the important contribution of the GR 40 to an inclusive and representative governance model involving the effective participation of civil society, in particular women HRDs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Aspects of draft GR 40 that this regional consultation has discussed included ways to achieve parity and move away from representation goals that do not meet the 50% mark. The importance of this cannot be underlined enough and it is inspiring to see the strong support expressed in this regional consultation and in other discussions on GR 40 over the need to move away from the 30 % target and demand nothing less than 50:50 parity. Sessions have also focused on ensuring diversity in women’s equal representation in decision-making positions; ensuring a comprehensive approach to decision-making that covers both the private and public spheres; and eliminating gender-based violence against women. These are key barriers to women’s equal decision-making in Europe.

The EU Gender Equality Index of 2023 reveals that decision-making remains the domain where women are most left behind men within the EU [despite vast discrepancies among EU Member States].

For example, when it comes to political life, only around one third of Ministers within the EU are women; and a similar proportion of Members of Parliament. For regional and local assemblies, seven in ten members are men! It is crucial, as you have mentioned in your discussions, not only to insist on parity as a right, but in parallel it is also important to form allyships with men to reach this aim. As one of you said, we can expect from men to be feminists.

The representation outlook just highlighted is similarly disheartening when it comes to economic decision making within the EU: women make up a third of board members of the largest quoted companies; and only 28% on boards of central banks. It is therefore essential, as you have discussed to not move away from the microlevel and minimum measures when it comes to women’s access to and influence over the economy, but to take ambitious measures to ensure women’s equal and inclusive representation at the macro level, including by re-structuring and elevating the care infrastructure to take the care responsibility off women’s shoulders only but divide it fairly.

Ensuring diversity in representation of women is a must to achieve into practice and reflect, through reliable data the public representation of women disaggregated by racial, ethnic, disability and other prohibited grounds of discrimination. Corresponding data is important to overcome the invisibility of women who are subjected to intersectional discrimination and to tailor temporary and permanent measures to reach equal and inclusive representation to be adapted to their lived realities, as you have emphasized during your discussions, as well as strengthening accessibility to decision-making systems for women with disabilities as well as for women who are excluded based on other factors, such as rural women.

Let me recall that OHCHR has set the methodological framework of measuring through HR indicators the level of implementation of all human rights by all population groups, including indicators on participation and representation. Therefore, States parties should set indicators, collect, and monitor progress on the effective representation and participation of women in political, public and economic life.

The insights of experts today and yesterday on how to further tailor the recommendations of the draft GR have been of utmost value for overcoming these problems in our region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Please rest assured that the Regional Office will stand ready to support the implementation of general recommendation No. 40 and to promote our common goal to reach parity in decision-making systems by 2030. I thank you again for the discussions.

Thank you.