The 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) concluded on Friday March 25, with UN Member States committing to the gender-responsive implementation of Agenda 2030. The annual CSW meeting to review progress on women’s empowerment was the first since the UN general assembly adopted the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the roadmap for ending poverty, inequality and conserving the environment over the next 15 years that was agreed in September.
A set of agreed conclusions called for enhancing the basis for rapid progress, including stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing. The intense negotiations proved somewhat contentious with several countries trying to water down the progressive language on financing for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) contained in the draft text of the outcome document. However, language on SRHR was kept the same as the language from CSW58. Regrettably, all language related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was completely removed as no agreement could be made. The World YWCA reaffirms the promotion and protection of, and respect for, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, disability, faith or religion. In her closing remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, stated “UN Women, of course, also did not get everything that we wanted, but we are very happy with most of what is in the document. UN Women regrets the fact that we have not been able to agree on the need to recognize the violations that women and girls experience because of their sexual orientation.”
Secondly, there is a paragraph on the importance of the role of family in achieving gender equality. Although the World YWCA recognises the role family currently plays in economic and social development: the issue of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) and its relation to poverty; as an organisation we are disappointed that the plural form of family – ‘families’ is not included in the agreed conclusions. ‘Families’ recognise the diversity of families and the household.
Thirdly, as joint organisers of the CSW60 Youth Forum and as a young women’s organisation we the World YWCA are deeply saddened by the removal of the paragraph on Youth Forum and Youth Participation. The agreed conclusions fail to mention young women directly at all.
The agreed conclusions do have some gains as the commission recognised women’s vital role as agents of development. It acknowledged that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of Agenda 2030 will not be possible without gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. For the first ever, there is a standalone paragraph on indigenous people, particularly indigenous women.
The agreed conclusions urge a comprehensive approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals through thorough integration of gender perspectives across all government policies and programmes. Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination depends on effective laws and policies and the removal of any statutes still permitting discrimination. Temporary special measures may be required to guarantee that women and girls can obtain justice for human rights violations.