Monday, February 27, 2012

Trend watching @ Opening Ceremony

This morning the opening ceremony of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Several organization- and country-representatives delivered speeches, which provide us with some useful insights in the overall trends and specific agenda’s during the session to come.

All spokespersons confirmed the importance of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). This agenda captures the centrality of gender and gender equality. It is not entirely surprising that progressive, moderate and conservative states alike underline the BPfA. After all “one of the key roles of the CSW is to monitor progress and address remaining gaps in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.” (Ms. Marjon V. Kamara from Liberia, chair of CSW56). Ms. Kamara further stated that “For good reasons, the annual sessions of the CSW are a ‘must-attend’ on the calendars of the global gender equality community. It is the time when we gather to take stock, rejoice progress made, rally around key issues and commit to move forward to bring real change to the lives of women and girls around the globe.” See her full statement here.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, emphasized the importance of linkages for gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, and protection of all their human rights throughout the UN system. She made a strong case for SRHR when she followed this statement up by saying: “The right to sexual and reproductive health is fundamental to women’s empowerment and gender equality.”

Ms. Silvia Pimentel, Chair of CEDAW, also made the case for linking gender equality, women’s rights and human rights, by referring to interaction with the human rights machinery.

Ms. Tutwiler, Deputy Director-General for Knowledge at FAO, made extensive use of statistics from the very recent report State of Food and Agriculture. Women and agriculture: closing the gender gap for development (FAO 2011). If women would have equal access to production resources, agricultural production could increase from 20-30% and BNP from 2,5-4%. See the full report here. She also announced FAO’s new gender policy to be released next week!

Several countries made statements on behalf of regional groups:

Algeria on behalf of Group 77 and China emphasized the importance of women’s economic empowerment, and therefore the full implementation of the BPfA, and especially in light of impact on the MDGs.

Denmark chairs the EU delegation, and found some inventive ways to frame progressive language. See the full statement here: “The EU will pay special attention to gender equality and the rights of women and men to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health. To this end, we will work actively to ensure that health systems provide information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive needs of women and family planning, as this is crucial for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and subsequently benefits society as a whole.”

“Measures such as comprehensive sexuality education, outlawing early and forced marriage and preventing teenage pregnancies or combating harmful traditional practices reduce maternal mortality and have huge development dividends in terms of family health, educational levels, people's ability to lift themselves out of poverty, and positive effects on economic growth at family, community and national levels.”

Also interesting was the statement by Samoa on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Group, who was progressive enough to mention stopping violence against extra-vulnerable women, such as women with disabilities, women affected by HIV, and lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

France was fierce and stated something along the lines of: It does not make much difference to women anno 2012, whether they came to the world during a good or a bad political cycle of the defense of their rights: these rights are universal and timeless. They must be always be adhered to. This is why France will not resign that agreed language is contested, and that women become dependent again on diplomatic maneuvers.

The opening statements from the various CSW56 member states will continue tomorrow afternoon. Dutch Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt will then address the CSW with a much awaited statement including the relevance of gender equality itself.

Joni van de Sand / WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

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