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Report Expert Meeting on Article 4 CEDAW Convention

From 10-12 October 2003 an international expert meeting was held in
Valkenburg on article 4 of the CEDAW Convention, which was organised by the
Universities of Maastricht, Leiden and Utrecht (SIM). It was a closed
meeting in which some 35 experts participated. Among them were members of
the CEDAW-Committee, scholars, representatives of the Netherlands
government, the UN, the ILO, the European Parliament, the Netherlands Equal
Treatment Commission and women's rights NGOs. The meeting was chaired by
Prof. C. Flinterman (Netherlands Institute of Human Rights).

Article 4 (1) of the CEDAW Convention permits "temporary special measures"
(or affirmative action measures) to improve the position of women. The
CEDAW-Committee intends to draft and adopt a General Recommendation on the
content, meaning and scope of this provision. The idea of the meeting was
to bring together legal expertise and practical experience on the subject.
The aims of the meeting were threefold: to give input to the drafting work
of the CEDAW-Committee, to stimulate the legal debate on the issue and to
promote the instrument of temporary special measures in the Netherlands.

Keynote speeches dealt with the experience of the Committee with the
implementation of Article 4 (1) by Dr. B. Schöpp-Schilling (Committee
member), the resistance against affirmative action by Prof. C. Bacchi
(University of Adelaide, Australia), the concept of affirmative action in
international law by Prof. M. Bossuyt (University of Antwerp) and on
affirmative action measures within the framework of the European Union by
Ms. J. Swiebel (MEP). The discussions focused on analysing and proposing
concrete subjects and suggestions for adoption in a General Recommendation.
In addition, the participants reached (more or less) common understanding
on a number of conceptual and legal issues concerning the nature of the
provision at stake. The general aim of temporary special measures is to
offer equal starting points or equal opportunities to women and, in
addition, to accelerate the process of redistribution of power and
resources and to bring about social and cultural change that will improve
the de facto position of women.

After rich and in-depth discussions, the Rapporteur of the seminar, Dr. R.
Holtmaat (University of Leiden), introduced the conclusions of the meeting
which will be presented to the CEDAW Committee. The report is also be
available on the website of the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights (
http://www.rechten.unimaas.nl/humanrights/Main.htm).