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We, the Women: The United Nations, Feminism and Economic Justice

The evidence is mounting: internationally agreed development and human rights goals are not being met. Moreover, civil society organizations and social movements are suffering from ‘conference fatigue’ after years of systematic involvement in the United Nations (UN) conference arena. Women’s organizations and international networks are particularly affected.

What does this imply for economic justice and women’s engagement with the UN?

Should the UN be reformed, should feminist movements reinvest in UN processes, or is the UN no longer a strategic site through which to pursue economic and gender justice?

This paper aims to contribute to this debate, while not pretending to cover all UN mechanisms or processes.

Beginning with an overview of the current context and global governance framework, the paper then focuses on four key economic-related UN mechanisms, namely the Millennium Development Goals (“MDGs”), the Financing for Development process (“FfD”), human right treaties including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), and World Conferences. Each of these international norm-setting spaces is assessed for its efficacy as a platform for promoting gender and economic justice, considering the status of the mechanism and the outcomes of women’s participation to date.

The paper also discusses the major challenges facing women’s movements in their quest for gender and economic justice though international venues, including the implications of some of the reform proposals put forward in the recently released Cardoso Report on civil society engagement with the UN.

It concludes with a call to engage critically with United Nations mechanisms, reclaiming these global policy spaces.

 

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