The 63rd session of CSW is just around the corner, scheduled on 11-22 March to be held in United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The 63rd session of CSW is just around the corner, scheduled on 11-22 March to be held in United Nations Headquarters in New York. Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the priority theme for this week, whereas, the review theme is Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development agreed on 60th session in 2016.
Commission on the Status of Women, the leading global intergovernmental body overlooking women’s rights and issues have come up a long way contributing to development women’s socio-political status. As we are looking forward to this year’s event, let us acknowledge the effort that the commission have put together and understand the context of women in social and political level through the journey of CSW till date.
The inauguration event of United Nations in February 1946 and the speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, a United States delegate, to ‘all the women in the world’ was the seed to the growth of sub-commission on status of women, which turned to now what we know as Commission on the Status of Women(CSW). The CSW incepted with its first meeting in February 1947 in Lake Success, New York where all the 15 representatives were women. Since its inception, the CSW has dedicated to ensuring women’s equality and promoting women’s right. Its mandate was to prepare recommendations and reports to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields” and to make recommendations on “urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights”. The Division on Advancement of Women (DAW), which further consolidated to being UN WOMEN in 2010, supported in its secretariat functions since its inception.
There were some key milestones of achievements in the process of fostering gender based awareness and equality secured by CSW since 1947 till date.
Introducing gender-sensitive language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first groundbreaking contribution to the human rights sector carried on by the CSW. The commission argued against references to ‘men’ as synonym for humanity and introduced more inclusive formats of languages. Following this movement, the CSW focused its attention on formulating conventions and revising discriminatory legislation. However, the modification and revision of legal instruments required evidences on the status of discrimination towards women. The commission thus embarked on an intensive, country by country research in collaboration with United Nations member states, NGOs and United Nations entities around the world. The statistics and qualitative information gave the picture of legal status of women, their access to education, work opportunities and civil rights, which over time became the basis for drafting various human rights instruments.
As the vast evidence shed lights on gaps of men’s and women’s political status, the commission came up with Convention of Political Rights of Women in 1953, which the was the first international law instrument to recognize women’s political right. Along with this, other important conventions formulated by the commissions were Convention on the Nationality of Married Women (1957), Convention on consent to marriage, minimum age for marriage and registration of marriages (1957) and Convention concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value (1951) that addressed the discrimination among women in marriages and work settings.
The 25th anniversary of the commission was marked by recommending the year 1975 to be declared as International Women’s Year, to draw attention to women’s equality with men and their contribution to development and peace. The year held First World Conference on Women in Mexico City, where 133 Governments participated including 6,000 representatives of NGOs attended a parallel forum, the International Women’s Year Tribune. The conference came up with the comprehensive guidelines for the advance of women until 1985 as a World Plan of Action. Following the recommendation made during International Women’s year, the United Nations declared 1976 to 1985 the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, providing further legitimacy to women’s issues.
The commission also strived to bring the violence against women in forefront of international debate and contributed for the development of international declarations which are till date major milestones in policy level. CSW drafted the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which got adopted by General Assembly on 20 December, 1993 by a vote of 130 Member States in favor and ratification of 20 countries. Likewise, in 1995, the CSW led the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which led to the adoption of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action unanimously by 189 countries. The declaration consolidated five decades of legal and policy advances aimed at securing the equality of women with men in law and practice. The commission also leads the monitoring of implementation of the declaration.
In recent developments, CSW has played major roles in the development of sustainable development agenda 2030 and carried out goal-by-goal assessment of Millennium Development goals from gender perspective. It has provided detailed roadmap for the implementation of sustainable goals in a gender-responsive manner. Currently, the commission has set in motion the process for a 25-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, which will be reviewed in March 2020.
Every year the commission holds two weeks sessions prioritizing certain themes based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly and possible linkages to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The discussions on the status of gender equality, goals and achievements made, ongoing efforts and remaining gaps in relation to the priority and review theme is held on the sessions. The commission adopts multi-year work programs to appraise progress and make further recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action. On each session, the commission holds ministerial segment to strengthen and reaffirm political commitment to gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. As a catalyst of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations systems, it contributes gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental processes, and addresses emerging issues, focus areas and new approaches to issues affecting women. The Bureau of the Commission, serving for the next two year, is a key player to facilitate the preparation of event in ensuring the successful outcome of the annual sessions of the Commission. The bureau for this session are:
Social Protection, one of the core issues of this year’s priority theme is stipulated under Article 22 in Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relates directly to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Goal 1- Poverty Reduction. The other two issues, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure raised by CSW are rarely discussed together, however it was highlighted during the CSW Expert meeting organized in 13-15 September, 2018 in New York that the issues are strongly interrelated and working on them together leads to better achievement of the goals. The gender gap in social protection agenda is one of the issues that requires attention. Globally, only 29 per cent of the population is covered by comprehensive social security systems, while only 26.4% of working-age women are covered by contributory old-age protection; in comparison to 31.5% of the total working-age population. Alignment with access to public services and sustainable infrastructure plays vital role in eliminating gender gap in social protection systems and enhancing gender responsiveness and equality.
UN Women, Commission on the Status of Women, http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw