CSW58 - reflections on week one

GADN members have been in New York at the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The following reflections were made at the end of the first week, ahead of further negotiations in week 2.

The big debates

At every UN negotiations on gender there will be an issue around which controversy coalesces, even if this isn’t the real issue of debate.  At CSW 58 this is human rights.  The Africa group in particular has questioned the need for human rights language arguing that the MDGs, and therefore the post MDGs, should be about development not rights.  This is of course partly in reaction to the calls for human rights to extend to everyone, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.  But it may also be a way of asserting a different, African, approach.  In response some feminist groups have suggested we should use the language of ‘human rights based development’.

The importance of the family has also been used to resist gender equality.  Belarus for example (widely seen to be speaking for Russia) has referred to women as the reproductive unit of the family.

Another point to watch is that language proposed sometimes refers back to the ICPD or Beijing agreements, rather than to the subsequent reviews where some progress was made.

Other areas of controversy include:

  • Sexual and reproductive rights as always, with vocal lobbies by religious fundamentalists of different persuasions focusing on abortion
  • Social protection, with the US particularly opposed to progressive languag
  • The US and some other OECD countries also reluctant on concepts around the living wage although some of the decent work agenda is being supported.
  • Some OECD countries are also reluctant to make commitments on financing.  Within the EU block there is an interesting discussion about whether to refer to financial support for women’s organisations or women’s rights organisations – with the latter being seen by governments as including ‘mainstream’ organisations doing work on gender equality and women’s rights.
  • The Africa group has also raised the issue of sovereignty – widely seen as a way to dilute commitments on gender equality.

Emerging issues

  •  Unpaid care appears to have made it onto the agenda now, although many delegations don’t really seem to know what it is.  NGOs are calling for increased state services as well as redistribution of care roles between women and men
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) has been included in some of the lists of the way that people are marginalised – but will be very hotly debated.
  • Discussions on men and boys are popping up often, with some concerns about the diversion of resources from women’s rights work.

Indicators - The techi bits – that are really political

The UN has launched a new paper on indicators at unstats.un.org/gender/data with 52 indicators.  Getting the indicators right is now recognised as key – this is where the political priority and funding will flow.  Recognition by the statisticians that we should measure what we treasure suggests there is room for political and strategic interventions on what indicators should be – and that we shouldn’t feel restricted by the data sets that exist.

The good news

There seems to be very little opposition to a standalone goal.  The US had been saying they did not want to pre-judge negotiations, although apparently came out in support early this week.  The EU position has also been in support.  Only Russia now appears to be actually opposed.  However support is not the same as championing and this could still be negotiated away.

Also good news is that the facilitator (from Switzerland) is seen as good and, at least so far, negotiations are seen as productive – although that could all change in week two when the contested bits are tackled!

Next steps

There is no guarantee that good language in the CSW 58 Outcome document will make it into the Post 2015 framework, so lobbying will be vital.