CSW58 Agreed Conclusions: strengths, weaknesses and next steps

After two weeks of negotiations at 
the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Governments passed a set of Agreed
Conclusions on this year’s priority theme: progress and challenges in
achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with an eye towards the creation ofnew development goals in 2015.  Over
50 Soroptimist delegates were there during the session to lobby
decision-makers, promoting five “key asks”, based on the information and
evidence gathered from Soroptimist clubs, projects, and representatives around
the world.

 “We are pleased that the CSW agreed conclusions include so
many of the key issues that Soroptimist International had highlighted
”, reports
Hilary Ratcliffe, SI’s International Programme Director.  “This is testament to the efforts of many NGO
representatives, including our own Soroptimist delegates who worked incredibly
hard to ensure that the voices of women and girls around the world could not be
ignored by decision-makers.

However, the work is not yet over.  This is a compromise agreement with some key areas
of weakness, and even where progressive wording has been agreed we will need to
hold governments to account to ensure that words become reality. There is still
much to be done to ensure progress for women and girls up to and beyond 2015

In this article, Soroptimist International analyses how far
the Agreed Conclusions met the five “key asks” set out in our advocacy
statement, draws attention to continuing areas of concern and looks at what happens next.


Image: NGOs celebrate the Agreed Conclusions at CSWbut there is still much work to be done


How far did the Agreed Conclusions meet Soroptimist International’s Key Asks?

The global community
knows that what you measure significantly impacts on what you do and how
resources are distributed. The MDGs did not treat gender as a cross-cutting
theme. Indicators for each and every MDG should have been disaggregated by

This ask was a resounding
success.  Many governments and NGOs came
to CSW with the same message, and this was reflected in the agreed conclusions
in multiple places, including a section on “Strengthening the evidence-base
for gender equality”.  SI would also like
to highlight these critical paragraphs from the agreed conclusions:

“27. The Commission is concerned that several indicators to monitor the
Millennium  Development Goals are not disaggregated
by sex, age and other factors and therefore do not  provide sufficient information about the
situation of women and girls throughout their life cycle, including those on poverty, hunger,
environmental sustainability and global partnership for development while
others are still limited, such as those related to  Millennium Development Goal 3, HIV/AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria.”

“43. The Commission urges States to build on the lessons from the
implementation of the Millennium Development Goals 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.”

2. RESOURCING:Funding and financing were noticeable
absent from the MDGs. Of particular importance, there was no mention or
requirement to deploy gender-responsive budgeting and gender audits.

During CSW negotiations, SI flagged resourcing as
a potential area of concern.  While we
are pleased that resourcing is including in the final document, with direct
reference to gender-responsive budgeting and gender audits, we will continue to
flag this as a priority issue to ensure that States comply.

“38. The Commission also recognizes that insufficient priority given to
and significant underinvestment in gender equality and the empowerment of women
in the realization of the human rights of women and girls continue to limit
progress on the Millennium Development Goals for girls and women of all ages,
their families and communities, and for the economic,  social and environmental dimensions of
sustainable development. It stresses that the available resources, through
domestic resource mobilization and official development assistance, and their
allocation remain a concern and are often inadequate to the task.”

“(bbb) Support and institutionalize a gender-sensitive approach to public
financial management,  including
gender-responsive budgeting across all sectors of public expenditure, to
address gaps in resourcing for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and
ensure all  national and sectoral plans
and policies for gender equality and the empowerment of  women are fully costed and adequately
resourced to ensure their effective 

“(ccc) Monitor and evaluate the impact of all economic decision-making on
gender equality,  including public sector
expenditures, austerity measures, where they apply, public-private  partnerships and investments, and official
development assistance…”

3. ACCOUNTABILITY: Accountability mechanisms for the MDGs were
weak. All involved actors, in particular governments and private institutions,
must be held to account for their actions or lack thereof. Naming and shaming
is not usually enough.

recognises that strong accountability is challenging in documents which are not
legally binding, but that by explicitly connecting the MDGs and the post-2015
agenda to existing human rights obligations, accountability can be
improved.  While this ask is technically
included in the agreed conclusions, SI is concerned that the language is weak
and not specific. 

“(lll) Develop and implement effective measures to account for the
achievement of gender  equality, the
empowerment of women, and the realization of the human rights of women and

4. VAWG:Violence against women and girls was not
addressed in the MDGs. As we all know that this is one of the primary barriers
to achieving gender equality and ensuring women have equal access to resources
and security, it is no wonder that the MDGs didn’t achieve what they could have
for women and girls.

discussions at this year’s session indicated that there was widespread
agreement that VAWG should be specifically included in the post-2015
development goals as a target under a stand-alone goal on gender equality.  The agreed conclusions certainly reference
the significance of the lack of reference to VAWG in the MDGs and urges Member
States to actively eliminate violence against women, but they do not go so far
as to call for VAWG to be specifically included in the post-2015 development

“Gender” has more than one side,
yet the MDGs focussed solely on women and girls. To truly effect change,
attention must be paid to working with men and boys and breaking gender
stereotypes for women AND men.
Based on the first draft conclusions which
were seen prior to the start of this year’s CSW, SI prioritised this ask as the
zero draft did not adequately address this. 
SI is pleased to share that there was some success on this point and the
final agreed conclusions include these important points around the importance
of men and boys:

“13. …The Commission recognises that the achievement of the MDGs
requires the full integration of women into the formal economy, in particular,
into economic decision-making, which means changing the current gender-based
division of labour so that women and men
enjoy equal treatment.”

“(e) Fully engage men and boys, including community leaders as strategic
partners and allies in the
elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls
both in the family and in society…”

“(z)…support the reconciliation of paid work with family/care
responsibilities for both women and men…”

“(gg) Recognize that caregiving is a critical societal function and
therefore emphasize the need  to value,
reduce and redistribute unpaid care work by…employment policies,  including family friendly policies with
maternity and paternity leave and
benefits; promote the equal sharing of responsibilities and chores between men
and women in care giving and domestic work to reduce the domestic work burden
of women and girls and to change the attitudes that reinforce the division of
labour based on gender”

Remaining Concerns

  • SI is expressing early concern about the methods
    proposed for measuring violence against women and girls (VAWG),
    as put forward by the UN Statistical Commission in
    2013.  The report titled “Guidelines for
    Producing Statistics on Violence Against Women” has been endorsed by the CSW58
    Agreed Conclusions.  These guidelines
    focus on national surveys to collect data specifically on VAWG.  Additionally an early report from UN Women on
    the Post-2015 Agenda recommended tracking reported incidents of VAWG.  While SI welcomes this focus and understands
    that data collection is often challenging, we want to ensure that VAWG is
    measured in a progressive and reliable way. 
    Rather than solely tracking reported incidents or undertaking national
    surveys, which could create perverse incentives or unintended negative
    consequences, we should also be measuring access to appropriate services,
    sensitivity training for law enforcement, laws which protect women from
    violence, and criminal justice systems which do not allow gender-based violence
    to continue.
  • SI was concerned during the first week as some
    proposed language around working with men and boys was damaging and portrayed
    men as little more than perpetrators of violence.  While the final text does not explicitly
    state this, the language is not as progressive and positive as SI would have
    liked.  Women’s rights organisations
    around the world are agreeing that men and boys need to be an integral part of
    our work to end violence against women and girls, but we do not want to
    pigeonhole men and boys into that role. 
    Rather, SI strongly advocates for a much more cutting-edge affirmative approach
    which works on gender equality for all, and ending damaging gendered
    stereotypes full stop. 
  • SI notes with concern the weakening of the
    language regarding ratification of CEDAW and its Optional Protocol
    and related
    reservations: “(a) Consider ratifying or acceding to, as a particular matter of
    priority, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
    against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and their
    respective Optional Protocols, limit the extent of any  reservations, formulate any such reservations
    as precisely and as narrowly as possible to ensure that no reservations are
    incompatible with the object and purpose of the 
    Conventions, review their reservations regularly with a view to
    withdrawing them and withdraw reservations that are contrary to the object and
    purpose of the relevant treaty;  and
    implement them fully by, inter alia, putting in place effective national
    legislation and policies”
  • Many conservative Member States and Observers
    use the language around “family” to subversively push an agenda which
    reinforces traditional gender roles
    and limits the ability of women and girls
    to achieve their fullest potential. 
    There is a compromise paragraph in the final agreed conclusions which
    references the “family”.  It is couched
    in terms which limit its application, but this paragraph still raises concern
    for SI on behalf of women and girls worldwide.
  • SI reported during CSW negotiations pushback on
    the phrase “harmful traditional and customary practices”
    as a way for
    governments to skirt their responsibility to recognise and address these
    violations of women’s rights.  SI is very
    disappointed that the final text drops the words traditional and customary and
    instead just uses “harmful” in the context of violent acts against women and
    girls.  Although the phrase is
    underpinned by examples which allude to the full definition of harmful
    traditional practices, by not explicitly recognising the role of tradition and
    custom the agreed conclusions do not accurately address this important issue.
  • Finally, is it SI’s position that, like many
    other UN documents, these agreed conclusions reference many, many different
    issues affecting women and girls, but are not focussed nor do they push
    governments far enough
    .  The language is very
    soft and while we note that it does not, on the whole, regress, it also does
    not progress.  As we continue to shape
    the post-2015 development agenda, we must ensure that governments are pushed to
    take action and to be held to account. 

Next Steps

CSW58 is over but SI’s work is far from done.  Unless they are implemented, the CSW agreed
conclusions are just another piece of paper. 

  1. Work to ensure that governments
    follow through with their commitments.
    SI will be issuing a post-session advocacy kit to guide clubs should
    they wish to join this global effort.
  2. Ensure that our key asks
    for the post-2015 agenda continue to be at the forefront. 
    There are many more meetings, opportunities,
    and discussions where SI must work diligently as the global community shapes
    the post-2015 development goals. 
  3. The agreed conclusions
    specifically reference the Beijing +20 review process.  SI aims to take an active part in this
    process.  More information on what SI is
    doing and how Soroptimists can be involved will be released very soon.

How will the CSW agreed conclusions affect Soroptimist International clubs?

Read more updates from CSW58 here





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