At 3 p.m. on the closing day of the 54th session of the CSW Secretary of State (US Minister of Foreign Affairs) Hillary Clinton addressed the CSW with an inspiring speech. The deadline for adoption of all the resolutions by 1 p.m. was unfortunately not met. Therefore many delegates could not attend Clinton’s address as they had to go back to the negotiating tables to seek agreement on final language for the resolutions on women’s economic empowerment and HIV/Aids. This did not dampen the spirit of Hillary Clinton and her audience. Invitees from civil society counted their luck as it opened up space for their attendance.
Clinton recalled her ‘maiden’ speech at the NGO Forum in Huairou at the occasion of the Fourth World Conference in Beijing in 1995. That was an important event for herself, as first lady then. It was also important for women around the world, whom she inspired by underwriting the, then fresh, acknowledgement of women’s rights as human rights and human rights as women’s rights. Fifteen years later, Clinton is not satisfied with the progress made: “We have to write the next chapter, as progress made is not the end of the story. It is maybe only the end of the beginning.” She called for recommitment as individuals, as nations and as United Nations to the principle of equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls on the globe. “It is the right thing to do and it is smart to do so, women’s progress is human progress and human progress is women’s progress.” She ended with sharing four commitments on behalf of the Obama administration. First of all US ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This was met with applause from the floor, above all from US civil society representatives. Second support to the establishment of a single, vibrant UN agency dedicated to women’s issues with strong leadership who will sit at the table of the Secretary General. Thirdly, support to strategies to promote more women in positions of leadership. And fourthly, the promise that the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action not only hold a promise to women in developing countries but hold a promise to women in all countries, including the US.
“In every country talent is universal, but opportunity is not.” She concluded: “Let’s go forward and be reenergized in this work.”
Hillary Clinton’s speech was an important energizer for CSW attendants, in particular women’s rights activists, who got frustrated and disillusioned by the total absence of new and forward looking commitments on the part of governments and the UN at large to the agenda of Beijing.