Ex Democrats senator elected to UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday November 11, 2020

Natasha Stott Despoja (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Former ambassador for women and girls Natasha Stott Despoja has been elected to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Commencing her four-year term in January, Stott Despoja will be the first Australian to serve on the committee in almost 30 years, following Elizabeth Evatt.

The committee was established in 1979 to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

Consisting of 23 independent experts, the body gives recommendations to states parties on issues related to the elimination of discrimination against women, facilitates inquiries into violations of women’s rights, and reviews communications from individuals and groups submitting claims of violations of rights protected under the convention.

Members also monitor the implementation of the convention through the review of national reports of states parties, and represent CEDAW at national, regional and international events.

Stott Despoja will be the only expert on the committee from the Oceania region.

She has thanked her supporters “wholeheartedly”, including foreign affairs minister Marise Payne, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Office for Women, Australia’s ambassador to the UN Mitch Fifield, as well as “diplomats, ministers, friends, colleagues, civil society” and MPs.

Stott Despoja has formerly served as a senator for South Australia and as leader of the Australian Democrats, making her the youngest woman to enter the Australian Federal Parliament and the longest-serving Democrat senator in the party’s history.

She was Australia’s ambassador for women and girls from 2013 to 2016, and is currently chair of Our Watch — an organisation which focuses on the prevention of violence against women and children.

Stott Despoja has also served as a member of the World Bank’s Gender Advisory Council, the UN High Level Working Group on Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents, and has represented Australia at key international forums including at several sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

In September she also voiced support for a campaign calling for more women to stand for local government in the recent Victorian council elections.

Read more: NSW, Victorian governments call on women to stand for council elections

Payne noted Stott Despoja’s candidacy was supported by the federal government following an open, merit-based selection process.

“It builds on Australia’s global leadership in advancing women’s rights and demonstrates Australia’s commitment to eliminating discrimination against women and girls in Australia and globally,” she said.

“Australia has a proud record of advocacy on gender equality with a focus on ending violence against women and girls, promoting women’s economic empowerment, and enhancing women’s leadership choices.

“Australia’s role as vice-chair of the Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women and our recent membership of the Human Rights Council and the Executive Board of UN Women, underlines our commitment to promoting and protecting women’s rights in Australia and across the world.”


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