[Brussels and New York, 19 March 2015] When meeting in March 2015 in New York, in the framework of the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59), UN member states were expected to reaffirm their commitment to realise women’s and girls’ human rights and to take step further to accelerate progress.
Twenty years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action by the international community, the political declaration adopted on 9 March fails to address the expectations of women’s organisations and the reality of women and girls in this planet. The political declaration is not an ambitious, serious and forward-looking commitment and raises severe concerns for women’s organisations.
Women’s and girls’ human rights are universal goals, which cannot tolerate any exception, justification or excuse. Peaceful and sustainable development cannot be achieved if half the planet’s population is not fully enjoying their human rights. CSW59 was a unique chance to deliver change for all women and girls on the planet, and for the human community as a whole. However, the political declaration falls short in reaffirming key language for women’s human rights, which have been expressed and reconfirmed over the years, especially during the reviews of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2000, 2005 and 2010. In particular, we are shocked to hear that there have been negotiations on the fundamental principles of “women’s human rights”, which are the core of the UN work. We urge UN member states to reaffirm their commitment to women’s and girls’ human rights when adopting new CSW working methods.
We are also concerned by the lack of strong language on ending all forms of violence against women and girls, and on guaranteeing and promoting women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, despite the international recognition at Rio+20 and the European commitment during the UNECE Beijing+20 regional Review Meeting (6-7 November 2014, Geneva). UN member states have to be accountable for their commitments, which are not about words, but about real lives of women and girls on this planet.
We are also deeply concerned by the lack of inclusion of women’s organisations in the discussion on the political declaration and by the lack of recognition of the instrumental role of women’s and feminist organisations in the realisation of women’s human rights worldwide.
The way the political declaration was negotiated and adopted raises issues of democracy, transparency and accountability. It is a clear fundamental principle of democracy that governments should dialogue with civil society and work with them to deliver the best commitments towards global justice, sustainable development and peace. Women’s and feminist organisations must be considered as equal partners by UN governments when discussing and adopting political statements, declarations, emerging issues and agreed conclusions. We sincerely hope that this year’s process will not set a precedent, and that any future process will guarantee the adoption of a consensus approach to ensure that all women’s voices are heard in the discussions, including moving towards agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals and the post 2015 agenda, and the Third Conference on Finance for Development.
The political declaration does not reflect the instrumental role played by women’s and girls’ organisations in working towards women’s and girls’ human rights at all levels. We believe it is imperative that member states employ democratic and transparent strategies to build the capacity of all women and girls and their organisations, so that all parties have an equal voice and have ownership of all the processes as well as the agreements. Such partnership and recognition should be at the core of any work on women’s human rights, including in the new working methods for CSW.
We ask UN member states to reaffirm the norm-setting role of CSW on gender equality and empowerment of women, and decide that the CSW will contribute to the follow-up of the post-2015 agenda and SDGs. The CSW has a critical role in accelerating the realisation of the Beijing Platform for Action and all women’s and girls’ human rights and instruments; it should also further enhance its catalytic role for gender mainstreaming in all UN entities and activities, including in support of the implementation of the post-2015 agenda and the SDGs.
Women’s organisations should be supported to participate in the work of the CSW and regional meetings on gender equality, including on the post-2015 agenda, due to their instrumental role in promoting women’s and girls’ rights. Women’s organisations and feminist groups should be systematically included in national delegations to the CSW, given access to negotiations, and be able to speak and intervene during general and panel discussion.
As part of states’ accountability responsibility, we ask UN member states to include, in the new CSW working methods, National Voluntary Presentations made by governments on challenges and good practices. The convening role of the CSW is a question of democracy, accountability and transparency.
We, the undersigned organisations, call on all UN member states to Commit, Accelerate and Invest:
- COMMIT to the realisation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
- ACCELERATE the implementation of all women’s rights instruments, especially the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW, and of existing regional and national laws and programmes on women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality.
- INVEST in women’s and girls’ rights, and in women’s organisations.
We want to see action NOW!
- AEEFG, Tunisia
- American Association of University Women (AAUW)
- Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW)
- Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres, Spain
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
- Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
- Conseil des Femmes Francophones de Belgique (CFFB)
- Deutsche Frauenrat
- European Women’s Lobby - The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 28 EU member states and the three candidate countries, as well as to 20 European-wide bodies, representing a total of more than 2000 organisations.
- Femmes solidaires
- Feminist Legal Studies, Queen’s University Canada
- FEMNET (African Women’s Development and Communication Network)
- FOKUS - Forum for Women and Development
- International Alliance of Women (IAW)
- International Public Policy Institute (IPPI)
- International Council of Jewish Women
- International Council of Women (ICW-CIF)
- International Federation of Settlements
- International Federation of University Women (IFUW)
- International Network of Liberal Women (INLW)
- Institute for Science and Human Values
- Joan Russow, Global Compliance Research project, Victoria BC, Canada
- Karat Coalition
- KULU-Women and Development, Denmark
- Kvinderådet / The Women’s Council in Denmark
- Medical Women’s international Association
- Mothers Legacy Project
- National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO), UK
- National Council of Women of Canada
- National Council of Women of Great Britain (NCWGB)
- Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP)
- Nederlandstalige Vrouwenraad, Belgium (NVR)
- Netherlands Council of Women
- New Future Foundation Inc
- Persons Against Non State Torture
- Polish Women’s Lobby
- Poverty Elimination and Community Education (PEACE) Foundation
- Queen Mother Dr Blakely, Community Mayor of New York
- Rakhaing Women Union
- Stowarzyszenie Wspolpracy Kobiet, NEWW (Network of East-West Women), Poland
- Swedish Women’s Lobby
- TERRE DES FEMMES Switzerland
- UK NGO CSW Alliance - Members present at CSW59
- WIDE+ platform in Denmark
- Widows for Peace through Democracy
- Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways, Turkey
- Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN)
- Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF)
- World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO)
- World YWCA
- WWAFE - Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality
- Zonta International