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EWL issues a joint Statement with partners for the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (10-21 March 2014)

[Brussels, 14 November 2013] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), together with partner NGOs, has issued a statement for the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will take place in New York on 10-21 March 2014. The priority theme is “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.

As this session will take place at a crucial time of the global discussion on the new development agenda which will take over from the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs), expiring in 2015, the EWL and its partners have decided to focus their statement on what women’s organisations expect from the new global development agenda. Moroever, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) will, in 2014, celebrate 20 years of its Programme of Action and of promotion of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights; 2015 will also see the celebration of the 20 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, one of the most important UN instrument for women’s rights. This is why the statement’s message is about reiterating that equality between women and men is a universal goal, which suffers no exception, justification or excuse.

In its statement, the EWL and its NGO partners call for a stand-alone goal on women’s rights and equality between women and men, as well as gender mainstreaming in all the new development agenda. They also send a message to the EU and its member states, asking them to take the global development agenda seriously, to make women’s rights and equality between women and men a reality within Europe, as a unique contribution to development, peace and equality.

The EWL also joined three other statements: from Equality Now, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and Rutgers.

Joint written statement for the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), 10-21 March 2014

Our organisations, all working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men, decided to come together to issue the following joint statement. We very much welcome the Commission’s decision to address “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls” as the priority theme for its 58th session.

Indeed, we are standing at a crucial time of the global discussion on the new development agenda which will take over from the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs), expiring in 2015; the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) will, in 2014, celebrate 20 years of its Programme of Action and of promotion of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights; 2015 will also see the celebration of the 20 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, one of the most important United Nations instrument for women’s rights. In this context, the outcomes of CSW58 will be instrumental to set the tone of the future for all women and girls on this planet.

A stand-alone goal on women’s rights and equality between women and men

For us, the starting point of the reflexion is that any strong transformative new global agenda for peace and development requires that women’s rights and equality between women and men are placed at the core of the policies and actions United Nations member states commit to. All recent reports and declarations at all levels, including the European level, point to the fact no global development policy will deliver if women’s rights and equality between women and men are not guaranteed. It is now time to transform words into action: women and girls from all over the world cannot wait another 20 years! This can only be achieved through a stand-alone goal on women’s rights and equality between women and men, and concrete gendered targets and indicators in the new development agenda, that reflect the changes needed in order to achieve gender equality. Such commitment should materialize at all levels, including through guaranteeing adequate and sustainable financing for women’s rights and gender equality in budgets of governments at all levels, as well as budgets of the European Union, of the United Nations and other international organisations.

For us, the post-2015 development framework must effectively guarantee the full spectrum of women’s rights. The stand-alone goal has to address all aspects of women’s lives, promoting women’s economic independence and the equal representation of women and men in all aspect of decision-making, guaranteeing women’s access to education, health and resources, and protecting women and girls from all forms of male violence. Not one single girl or woman should be left behind! It is crucial to take into account the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by many women and girls around the world.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has acknowledged that the impact of globalisation and of policies such as deregulation of economies and privatisation of the public sector have tended to reinforce economic inequalities between women and men, especially within marginalised communities. Women’s rights are intimately linked to the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, environmental. Moreover, gender inequality is both structural and systemic, deeply rooted in the structures of all societies and existing from community level right up to international institutions. This is why we demand a clear commitment to implement gender mainstreaming in all goals, targets and indicators of the new agenda to complement specific actions to promote women’s rights.

Equality between women and men: A universal goal, with no exception, justification or excuse

In a context of global economic, social and environmental crisis, the United Nations and member states have a duty to protect women and girls worldwide and must reaffirm their commitment to existing United Nations agreed language and instruments on women’s rights and equality between women and men. Women’s rights and equality between women and men are universal goals, which cannot tolerate any exception, justification or excuse. Our organisations and their members are expecting United Nations member states to listen to their voices and expertise and to agree on conclusions building on the existing international human rights instruments while at the same time reinforcing commitments to answer new challenges at all levels and providing concrete steps for further action.

We witness a growing profound and structural movement of antifeminist and conservative ideas, affecting all policies in all continents. This movement contests the goal of equality between women and men, develops argumentation based on religion, tradition or culture to legitimate violations of women’s rights, challenges universal human rights and the global solidarity for women’s rights. This is why we strongly call on the United Nations and its member states to support the following specific recommendations, in order to guarantee women’s human rights and equal participation in political, economic and social life in all countries:

  • • Ending all forms of violence against women and girls should be a priority within the stand-alone goal, with targets and indicators enabling real progress on women’s lives. There can be no excuse, custom, tradition, or religious consideration used to violate women’s rights and legitimize male violence. Violence against women cannot be considered a private issue; it is a human rights issue. We call on all member states to reiterate their commitment to end all forms of violence against women and girls, in order to reach the highest level of equality, development and peace for all.
  • • Prostitution is one of the most archaic manifestations of the unequal power relation between women and men: it supports the perpetuation of hegemonic masculinity, while giving ground for increased trafficking and institutionalising organised crime. United Nations member states have already affirmed the key human rights principle that “prostitution and the accompanying evil of the traffic in persons for the purpose of prostitution are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person” (UN 1949 New York Convention). Any proposal to legalise, decriminalise or regulate “sex work” would lead to normalising violence against women and the violation of women’s dignity. We demand progressive policies to protect all women and girls from prostitution, decriminalise those in prostitution, and address the demand that fuels sexual exploitation and trafficking.
  • • Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights should continue to be a policy priority. This includes no negotiation on access to sexuality education, free access to all methods of safe contraception, and safe and legal abortion. The violation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights is a violation of basic human rights and cannot be tolerated. All individuals and families, whatever the form, should be able to fully enjoy these rights and benefit from the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, violence or discrimination.

A committed and united European Union (EU)

Finally, we hope to see the European Union take a strong stance at CSW, speak one voice to defend a progressive agenda for women’s rights and equality between women and, and lead the work towards ambitious 2013 CSW conclusions. We would like to recall the EU member states of their commitment to have a post-2015 agenda which “should also address justice, equality and equity, good governance, democracy and the rule of law, with a strong focus on the empowerment and rights of women and girls and gender equality, and on preventing and combating violence against women as essential preconditions for equitable and inclusive sustainable development, as well as important values and objectives in themselves.” (2013 EU Council Conclusions on “The Overarching Post 2015 Agenda”).

All the EU member states should be united in the realisation of the EU core values of equality between women and men, democracy and peace. In the 21st century, it is time for the EU to take the global development agenda seriously, to make women’s rights and equality between women and men a reality within Europe, as a unique contribution to development, peace and equality.

Signatories:

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