Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No agreed conclusions of CSW 56 at all!

Even though the negotiations had been extended beyond the date that was scheduled to have concluded the session in the end no agreed conclusions have been adopted at the 19th meeting of the fifty-sixth session of the CSW (March 15 2012). To my knowledge it is the first time in history that the CSW did not adopt agreed conclusions to (formally) submit to the Ecosoc Council.

Embarrassment all around the diplomatic community in New York! Diplomats rightfully fear to be seen as incapable of flexibility and compromise. In words of Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Women: ‘a disappointing inability to reach consensus.

There are some rumours that after another nightly session the informal negotiations in the end stuck especially around the wording of issues of sexuality and reproduction. But other subjects too were far from resolved. The statement on behalf of the African Group (AG) hints for instance at disagreements about the term gender: in the African understanding the Beijing Declaration outlined gender as ‘male’ and ‘female’, according to the press release of the UN Economic and Social Council.

By emphasizing the African understanding of ‘sex education’ (should be age-appropriate and under the guidance of adults) the Zimbabwean spokesperson of the AG seems also to point at disagreements on the sexual and reproductive rights issues. The ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ as promoted by the EU seems miles away from Africa. Zimbabwe is one of the hardliners in issues of gender identity and sexuality. Is it a coincidence that the informal negotiations about the agreed conclusions started with the representative of Swaziland speaking in behalf of the AG and in the end the representative of Zimbabwe?

Since the informals were closed for NGO observers almost from the start it is difficult to reconstruct the process and analyse the discourses. It seems too easy to put the blame to the unlikely alliance of Iran and the Holy See or to assume that mainly the African Group and CARICOM are heading backwards from the Beijng Platform for Action.

A link to the EU-statement can be found at the website of E-quality.

Some countries might take the lead on development of a resolution for the General Assembly of the UN in September to provide a specific reference point on the empowerment of rural women and other related subjects like decent work and social protection.

Leontine Bijleveld

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