NGOs' expectations of the CSW57 and national governments

2013-03-15 20:15:00


by Nazila Isgandarova*


A large number of government representatives, senior officials, delegations from NGOs and experts have come from all around the world to New York to attend the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57), which began on March 4 and ended on March 15.

They discussed and assessed the status of the CSW's work for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The representatives of governments and members of parliaments also shared their experiences and positive practices. However, what was also remarkable was the participation of the NGOs, who questioned their respective governments' legislations and practices, which pushed them further to achieve new and improved legal, socio-economic and political equality of women that drastically helps to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

An example of the activism of global and national NGOs during the CSW57 is evident with the statement on March 12 of a number of global and national NGOs titled “Statement of Feminist and Women's Organizations on the Very Alarming Trends in the Negotiations of the Outcome Document of the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.” The statement was drafted by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) and the International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) and endorsed by Amnesty International, ANIS: Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender in Brazil, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Namibia Women's Health Network, Rutgers WPF, Netherland Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGN).

These remarkable organizations from all around the world have criticized the work of the CSW and expressed their disappointment for it “wavering in its commitment to advance women's human rights.” They have also invited the participant states to reaffirm their commitment in respecting and promoting women's human rights by following the standards of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Vienna Declaration and the Program of Action, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action.

The statement is an explicit expression of the alarming concern of global and national NGOs towards the CSW57. There are many reasons for these concerns. First, some governments at the CSW57 are attempting to reopen negotiations on the already-established international agreements on women's human rights.

Second, many world governments, especially those of developing countries, fail to fulfill their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women.

Third, there is a lack of a common language among the participant states in the definition and intersecting nature of violence that women and girls are experiencing, including in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, harmful practices perpetuated in the context of negative cultures and traditions, among others. For instance, Canada, Switzerland and members of the European Union have underlined the importance of Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 that acknowledge links between gender equality, peace, security and development; however, Russia and some African countries have opposed the linkages. One of the diplomats of the African group mentioned that they want a reference only to “relevant Security Council resolutions,” and suggested the deletion of actual references to 1325 and 1820. It means that they do not want to accept the relationship between gender equality, peace, security and development. Many NGOs do not accept this position. For instance, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, international coordinator for the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders -- a program partner of the International Civil Society Action Network -- stated that “we believe there cannot be sustainable peace if violence against women persists.”

Fourth, the participant governments attempt to negotiate and define women's rights on behalf of culture, tradition and religion. However, they forgot that any authentic customs, tradition or religions never justify discrimination and violence against women and girls. Therefore, any violence against women and girls should not be tolerated.

The statement issued by the global and national NGOs “remind” not only the participant states but also the UN CSW that the “CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women with the sole aim of promoting women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.” Unfortunately, omission of the links between war, peace, security and gender equality by the CSW57 is interpreted as “an outrage” by Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, who told the IPS that “the problem with this CSW is that it is ignoring both war/militarism and 1325 on the official side.”

What is explicit at the CSW57 is that the global and national NGOs challenge conservative mind-sets not only in their states, but also at the UN. They call upon the CSW that it must ensure that the participant governments fully implement existing international agreements on women's human rights and gender equality.

In general, the outcomes of the CSW57 and also previous sessions cannot be satisfactory and outstanding without paying attention to the concerns of NGOs. The expectations of NGOs from their respected governments and the UN CSW create a well-maintained balance between fears and hopes, truth and falsehood, reality and myth. As it is evident today, the NGOs' criticism ensures that the UN CSW does not lower the bar for women's human rights because of the pressure from national governments. NGOs make sure that the outcome document of the CSW57 will further advance and secure women's human rights. Therefore, the member states of the UN and the various UN human rights and development agencies need to recognize and support the important role of women's groups and organizations for their brave work to be at the forefront of challenging traditional values and practices and undemocratic rules and socioeconomic and political injustices in society and the world.

Today's Zaman

March 14, 2013

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