CSW58 - reflections on week two

Initial reflections on this year's CSW from the co-chairs of GADN's Post-2015 working group.

This is a very initial set of thoughts, and others who were there to the bitter end will be able to provide much more detail, particularly Heather who has contributed her thoughts below.  There is no final text as it still has still to be neatened by the UN staff but there is a rough version available, from which Heather has quoted.

Probably the most important thing now is how we use the outcome of CSW in the post 2015 negotiations.  The UN Women release  March 22 press release: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/3/executive-director-statement-on-csw58-outcome suggests a strategic approach where we emphasise the positive outcomes rather than dwelling on what was missing – and this seems a good place to start.  In addition to their mention of VAWAG and unpaid care, we could also add the language on social norms as positive steps forward. 

The issues:

Initial attempts, led by the Africa group, to exclude the language of rights proved an early sticking point but the final document includes many references to women’s rights.

There were major fights over language on ‘the family’.   The women’s caucus was pushing for Beijing language on ‘various forms of family’ which they did not get – but the paragraph on the family is thought to be OK.  We need to watch in forthcoming negotiations however that ‘the family’ is not used as a way to legitimise discrimination against women again.

Sexual rights and Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) were pushed hard by feminist group, and strongly resisted by some states.

The language on economic development was not particularly strong, and neither was the CSO lobby in these areas.  Paragraph 26Aq is particularly weak and instrumentalist.

Unpaid care however does appear throughout the document and is clearly now an ‘emerging issue’.

Recognition of the need to challenge social norms also stayed in the document.

Calls for a stand-alone goal within the post-2015 framework work along with mainstreaming, were maintained, although vague.  This may apparently have been part of a strategy not to constrain future negotiations (Paragraph 27 )

Heather Barclay's  reflections

The climate at the Commission on the Status of Women negotiations this year was very challenging. We entered the negotiations with a very ambitious set of asks (SRHR, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), CSE), some of which had never been recognised at an international level before. The Opposition also came in with some really problematic positions, including a standalone goal on the family, no references to gender, and the ability to interpret the outcomes according to national laws, cultural and traditions. Some conservative states were rejecting all agreed language, including that of last year’s CSW Agreed Conclusions. So it was never going to be an easy ride! However, despite that, the progressive states, with our support and backing, managed to hold strong.

Overall, I think we can call this year’s CSW a qualified success. The reference to a standalone gender goal is excellent and will help the further engagement in the post-2015 process. There are references through out to gender equality, and the human rights of women and girls, which was on the table for deletion at one point, and close to the best agreed language of SRH and RR, and SRH services. References to sovereignty and sex selection didn’t make it to the final text and the references to family are weaker than the opposition wanted. But we did not move the agenda as far forward. Most of the discussions were a rear-guard action to protect what we have and the space to open up a more progressive conversation on women’s rights was limited.

Some of the highlights (based on the paragraphs in the currently available agreed text) included:

Standalone goal:

27. The Commission urges States to build on the lessons from the implementation of the MDGs as the new post-2015 development agenda is being shaped. It urges States to tackle critical remaining challenges through a transformative and comprehensive approach and calls for gender equality, the empowerment of women and human rights of women and girls to be reflected as a stand-alone goal and to be integrated through targets and indicators into all goals of any new development framework.

  • This is the call that we need to take the standalone goal discussion forward into the Open Working Group

  • It includes gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights, which is positive, as it’s not just restricted to one or two of the key elements

  • The reference to mainstreaming via targets and indicators is also helpful as it will allow us to make the case for tangible gender targets under all goal areas.

Gaps in the MDGs:

19. The Commission is concerned that several critical issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women were not adequately addressed by the MDGs such as: inter alia, violence against women and girls; child, early and forced marriage; women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid work, particularly unpaid care work; women’s access to decent work, the gender wage gap, employment in the informal sector, low paid and gender-stereotyped work such as domestic and care work; women’s equal access to, control and ownership of assets and productive resources including land, energy and fuel, and women’s inheritance rights; women’s sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences; universal health coverage; non-communicable diseases; accountability for violations of human rights of women and girls; and women’s full and equal participation in decision-making at all levels. The Commission recognizes that unless all dimensions of gender inequality are addressed, gender equality, the empowerment of women and the realization of human rights of women and girls cannot be achieved.

  • The recognition that SRH and RR, violence against women and girls, access to assets, and participation in decision making was missing from the MDGs is a big win for us, and will allow us to increasingly push for these elements to be included in the post-2015 framework

  • We would have preferred reference to SRHR, instead of SRH and RR, but countries were very resistant to recognising sexual rights.

  • Recognising the link between gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment and sustainable development is also very useful.

Addressing Social Norms:

(d)  Implement concrete and long-term measures to transform discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes including those that limit women’s roles to being mothers and caregivers, and eliminate harmful practices including, inter alia, female genital mutilation and honor crimes, in order to achieve gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and the full realization of the human rights of women and girls;  

  • Operational Paragraph reflects the importance of addressing the underlying causes of gender inequality such as social norms and stereotypes, which is positive as it moves beyond acting on the surface issue and tacking what causes the inequality in the first place. This is reinforced by para 20.


i) Ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences, including through the development and enforcement of policies and legal frameworks, and strengthening of health systems, that make universally accessible and available quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, commodities, information and education, including, inter alia, safe and effective methods of modern contraception, emergency contraception, prevention programmes for adolescent pregnancy, maternal health care such as skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care which will reduce obstetric fistula and other complications of pregnancy and delivery, safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law, and prevention and  treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and reproductive cancers, recognizing that human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence;

  • Comprehensive listing of SRH services, including emergency contraception is very welcom

  • The ICPD and Beijing are still qualified, but of having a qualification, this is a softer one as it allows for the inclusion of all their review conferences.

Intersectionality of poverty

(g) Address the multiple and intersecting factors contributing to the disproportionate impact of poverty on women and girls over their lifecycle as well as intra-household gender inequalities in allocation of resources, opportunities and power by realizing women’s and girls’ civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development; and ensure women’s and girls’ inheritance and property rights, equal access to quality education, equal access to justice, social protection, and an adequate standard of living, including food security and nutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation, energy and fuel resources and housing, as well as women’s and adolescent girls’ access to health including sexual and reproductive health care services, and women’s equal access to full and productive employment and decent work, women’s full participation and integration in the formal economy, equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, and equal sharing of unpaid work;  

  • This comprehensive statement on the areas that have a disproportionate impact on the poverty of women is very welcome, especially as it links to household patterns, resource allocation ns access to services

  • The burden of unpaid work on women around the world is a key factor influencing gender inequality, so having it recognised here is very positive.

Data collection

Similarly there are a range of paragraphs (paras aa to dd) that speak to the importance of gender sensitive data collection and appropriate indicator frameworks; the commitment to taking this work forward is central to monitoring the MDGs.

Some of the low lights included:

Multiple discrimination

9. The Commission is deeply concerned that overall progress for women and girls across all the MDGs remains slow and uneven, including on MDG 3, both within and between countries and that lack of progress on gender equality has hindered progress towards all of the MDGs. It is especially concerned about the lack of progress for poverty-stricken regions and areas and for marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged women and girls and those women and girls who experience multiple forms of discrimination and inequalities of any kind.

  • A hard-fought area, we had really wanted to see reference to the intersectional discrimination that some women face based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead of recognising SOGI in the text, it was agreed that a listing of the groups that are “marginalised, vulnerable and disadvantaged” would just be left out

The Family:

(h) sept, (ee) bis and (hh) ter. Recognize the family as a contributor to sustainable development, including in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals for women and girls, that gender equality and women’s empowerment improve the well-being of the family, and in this regard stress the need of elaborating and implementing family policies aimed at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and at enhancing the full participation of women in society;

  • This reference is a disappointment though it could have been worse. The progressive states had argued for references to “families in all their diversity” or “all forms of the family.” Both were rejected, as the point of these references from the conservative side is to recognise that traditional family structures are the only “valid” forms of the family. However, through a lot of work and a strong intervention from the Latin American countries and Australia, these references managed to be restricted to the above, which still places gender equality at the centre.

Financial resources

There are a range of paragraphs that speak to the need to increase funding gender equality and women’s rights (paras v to z) and the implementation of gender responsive budgeting, though the commitments are not as strong as we would have liked. The Western Europeans and Others Group resisted most commitments in this area which was disappointing

Some of the key players included:

  • A lot of the Latin American countries championed our issues and were “leading lights” on this agenda.

  • The Philippines and Turkey, as with last year, could be counted on for strong interventions and support.

  • The European Union had strong positions on a lot of our issues but did not speak up as robustly as we would have liked.

  • Egypt and South Africa were the champions from the Africa Group, speaking consistently and strongly in favour of women’s rights.

  • The conservative forces were very active this year. The Holy See tried to dominate the debate, but found itself isolated by the middle of the second week. Russia worked closely with Belarus. Iran was active as well.

  • Caricom and the African Group were more conservative and a source of solid opposition on some of our issues


Jessica Woodroffe