How could we possibly have reached conclusions?
I know that many Soroptimists like a good party and can enjoy themselves into the early hours of the morning but could you concentrate on important discussions into those early hours, debating intricate points of detail on an important international document with others?
Could you counter arguments put forward by other high level governmental negotiators at 3 am? Would you be able to protect individual words in that text which in their turn protect the human rights of women and girls?
I’m never sure what motivates these incredible men and women in the middle of the night to keep going to agree those final paragraphs of CSW Agreed Conclusions. Nor am I sure why an ardent group of active NGO representatives sit snapping at the heels of the negotiators to ensure there is no back sliding on our rights. I know why I do it – for that very reason – we must show that we are representing those who are not lucky enough to have a voice at the UN, those who are the most vulnerable or discriminated against. Those who rely on us to remember them and amplify their voices.
Fortunately for us the negotiators do keep debating, tossing phrases backwards and forwards; phrases which look as though they mean the same thing but have subtle nuances or different meanings when translated into languages other than English.
So after many months, and weeks, and days and hours of exchange of words, sometimes more acrimonious and tense, at others relaxed, the CSW67 members were presented with Agreed Conclusions at the UN CSW67 with Member States confirming their support by consensus.
We nearly didn’t make it – at 2am on Friday evening/the early hours of Saturday morning, l was still waiting outside the UN Committee room where this was all happening. The UK Negotiator came out to tell myself and a very small group of NGOs that most of the wrinkles had been ironed out but there were still 3 paragraphs to go which were holding up the final push. Eventually 2 of the paragraphs were merged into one thus weakening each in its own right but giving agreement. The final paragraph, in the middle of the document took a bit longer, with the offending words at last being removed to enable the whole document presenting the CSW67 Agreed Conclusions to be presented by the facilitator and the Chair to bring down her gavel with the words “It is so agreed”.
UN Women acting as the secretariat moved very quickly to get a press release out. I personally feel this release puts an amazing positive spin on the discussions which started many months previously and which were never as smooth as the press release implies. The Zero Draft, which is the initial starting point, was issued by the CSW Bureau (UN Women) at the end of January when Member States were given the opportunity to make suggestions on the text with very rapid turnaround times. Thanks to the good relationships which Soroptimists have with many Governments, SI was able to submit suggestions for improvements and strengthening the wording.
When the first revised text was circulated at the beginning of March incorporating suggestions which had been made by everyone, the Chair of CSW67 H.E. Ms. Mathu Joyini (South Africa) took the unusual step of proposing that approximately half the paragraphs would no longer be open for discussion since they were based entirely on previously agreed language and it was not a good use of everyone’s time to go over these discussions again. This move was challenged many times over the coming weeks but held strong through to the end of the negotiations. The outcome was that it was impossible for those member states who wished to push back on the human rights of women and girls could do so in this context.
As an example, the following paragraph from AC Rev 1 offers much opportunity for pushing back, especially as some Member States do not wish to ‘reaffirm the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls’:
“9. Closed para
The Commission reaffirms that the promotion and protection of, and respect for, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls, including the right to development, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, are crucial for the full and equal participation of women and girls in society and for women’s economic empowerment and should be mainstreamed into all policies and programmes. It also reaffirms the need to take measures to ensure that every person is entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development and that equal attention and urgent consideration should be given to the promotion, protection and full realization of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in the context of innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age.”
Having been closed off at the early stage it meant that paragraph 9 in full is now a part of the Agreed Conclusions for CSW67 and all Member States can be held accountable for achieving what is presented there. This enables civil society and non-governmental organisations the opportunity to monitor their governments against these promises.
It isn’t a perfect system by any means to protect our rights because Governments enter reservations against these agreements, stating that they must be allowed to operate within their own national laws without interference by outsiders, known as ‘Sovereignty’. It does give everyone a framework to work within and CSW itself will be reviewing these Agreed Conclusions in about 5 years’ time.
It is important for Soroptimists in every country, where it is possible, to engage with their national Government to check if the agreement is being followed up. This year is even more important because for the first time as UN Women Executive Director, Sima Bahous, said: “This year’s Agreed Conclusions are game-changing and bring forward our vision of a more equal and connected world for women and girls in all their diversity. It is our job, as we leave here today, to translate them into reality. The ultimate success of these Agreed Conclusions lies beyond their finalization today, in how we will collectively take them forward. They bring us a vision of a more equal world. Let us translate them into reality for all women and girls.“
So Soroptimists everywhere – while I am preparing to look at the text for CSW68 with the Priority Theme in 2024 ‘Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.’
You must be taking action.
We all need to be asking our Governments how they are making things better for women and girls through technology and the digital world.
Ask yourselves if as individuals or clubs you can help to implement the promises in the Agreed Conclusions in your communities.
Thank you, Pat. This explains and clarifies the process well.