Stay Informed

Your go-to source for the latest trends impacting gender justice and women’s rights around the world

CSW58 Round up 4 – Friday 28 March 2014


This year’s negotiations at the CSW were hotly contested, as usual, and very important because of the new development framework that is being put forward to replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. As such, women’s rights advocates, organisations and movements worked extremely hard to retain existing language and tried to push forward language so that the Agreed Conclusions contained clear commitments for gender equality and women’s human rights.

The document importantly recognises that “almost 15 years after the MDGs were launched, no country has achieved equality for women and girls, and significant levels of inequality between women and men persist” also highlighting that several critical issues were not adequately included in the MDGs, including violence against women and girls; child, early and forced marriage; women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid work, particularly unpaid care work; women’s access to decent work, the gender wage gap, employment in the informal sector, low paid and gender-stereotyped work such as domestic and care work; women’s equal access to, control and ownership of assets and productive resources including land, energy and fuel, and women’s inheritance rights; women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights.

However, the geopolitics and conservative backlash that we spoke of in our recent FF, were palpable in the last days of negotiations last week, which resulted in a set of Agreed Conclusions that have largely been welcomed by women’s rights advocates, organisations and movements.

The good

Some of the important achievements in the ACs includes explicit reference to the need to learn lessons from the MDGs in shaping the post-2015 development, calling on 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.”

There is strong language on violence against women and girls (VAWG), including explicit reference to eliminating all harmful customary practices, including – female genital mutilation (FGM), child, early and forced marriage, through enacting and enforcing laws. There are also important references to natural disasters and climate change, although no reference to common but differentiated responsibility; and the role of the media in elimination of gender stereotypes was included.

The document importantly recognises role of feminists, women’s and community-based organizations in placing the interests, needs and visions of women on national, regional and international agendas.

Women’s rights advocates fought hard to ensure that restrictive language on families, which does not recognise diverse forms of families was not included in the final text, along with reference to sovereignty which can be seen as a ‘get out jail free card’ for States to renege on their responsibilities.

Despite a lot of resistance from conservative opposition, there is some language on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights (SRHR), including access to abortion services where they are legal and some language on comprehensive sexual education (CSE).

The bad and ugly

But as has become the norm at CSW, there were tense negotiations on some of the more contested issues, with a small minority of conservative governments, including the Holy See, that hampered negotiations by objecting to concepts as fundamental as gender and the human rights of women. In the final days of negotiations the Holy See, which only holds special observer status at the UN, went as far as to question the legitimacy of the CSW process and the final outcome document.

The AC’s fail to recognise the landmark Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) of the World Conference on Human Rights that took place in Vienna 20 years ago; and there was lack of recognition, throughout the two week negotiations, of the indivisibility of human rights. Specific language related to the violence and discrimination that people face because of their real of perceived sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was excluded despite the principles of human rights, which embody non-discrimination as a core principle for human rights to be guaranteed.

The Commission also failed to make the link to between sustainable development -a multidimensional concept that has ecological, economic and social dimensions – and respect for sexual and reproductive rights and diverse sexualities and gender identities. The exclusion of reference to specific marginalised groups in the text also means that the rights of sex workers have been excluded.

Missed opportunities

While the Commission recognised the world financial and economic crises, it did not go far enough in highlighting the particular negative impacts they have had on development, nor the need for regulation and to hold those responsible accountable. It also missed the opportunity to recognise the need for a structural changes to the current economic model and to make link between economics and development. Strong language regarding increasing the effectiveness of financial resources across all sectors to achieve gender equality was watered down, calling for voluntary innovative financing mechanisms as appropriate rather than aligned with existing human rights obligations. Reference the accountability of state and non-state actors for the promotion of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment was also excluded from the final ACs, as was language to ensure access to remedies, reparation and redress.

At least year’s CSW women’s rights advocates worked hard for new language on women human rights defenders (WHRDs) to be included in the ACs. While this year’s Commission acknowledges the public and legitimate role of WHRDS in promoting and protecting human rights, democracy, rule of the law and development, the Commission missed the opportunity to include language related to ending impunity harassment, criminalization and aggression that WHRDs experience both because of who they are and the work they do.

Letters and statements

Read previous CSW 58 Round Ups