Monday, September 23, 2013

68th General Assembly: New power paradigm​

Think tanks in various countries have worked double shifts lately: the international power map has thoroughly shifted in the past 6 months. The 68th General Assembly (UNGA) reflects the new reality.
To name a few:

·         Will there be a resolution on Syria and if so, how will it look like?
·         On Tuesday 24th September State Secretary Kerry meets with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif to talk about the Iranian nuclear program: the first meeting in many years. Even more surprising: Ashton just announced that Zarif will talk with the 6 members of the Security Council on Wednesday 25th September.
·         Will the G77 agree with the draft statement of Ban Ki-moon?
·         The post-2015 agenda: the follow-up of the MDG's. ​

A heated debate 
These topics create enough elements for a heated debate, certainly from a women's rights & gender perspective. Several challenges arose:

1.       Security debate: the whodunit-debate on chemical weapons in Syria seems to distract the attention from the human suffering and losses, as was rightfully pinpointed by OxfamNovib. And, by the same token, the international community should practice what it preaches on Resolution 1325: Involve Syrian women on all levels of decision making. The UN should strive for human security and transformative justice.
2.       Gender and SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) are being pushed off the post-2015 development agenda. The High-Level Panel stressed in its report the importance of a gender standalone goal and gender mainstreaming. The latest proposal of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is much weaker. Apparently there are some strong forces acting against women's rights.
3.       There seems to be a MDG-fatigue: everybody is waiting for something new. But one cannot turn a blind eye on the lack of results for women's rights and health. Until new and women-friendly goals are set, we will need to face the facts and work to try to improve women's rights and SRHR.
Finally, together with a narrowing of the space for non-state actors, corporations seem to have an increased influence on decision making within the UN. Does this shift reflect the strive for a healthy balance with new partners and 'do no harm'? One of the new ideas at the UN General Assembley was a  "Conflict of Interest Check".

Contributions of the Netherlands

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timmermans held a warm plea for the rights of Syrian and other Arab women that have been fighting dictatorship during the Equal Futures Partnership meeting. State Secretary Kerry by adding "no team can win with of half of its players on the bench", referred to the importance of political participation of women. Minister Timmermans will meet leading women of the Syrian opposition on Tuesday 24th September. The strong stance on Human Rights is an important element of the Dutch campaign for a seat in the UN Security Council.

Minister Ploumen stressed that gender equality and women's rights are her top priority. Therefore gender-equality should be integrated as a separate goal and mainstreamed in the post-2015 agenda,  including SRHR and economic justice. As an example she mentioned the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Monday 23rd September between the Bangladeshi government, the Bangladeshi  employers association and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the garment industry. This will also be stressed during the annual meeting of the
Clinton Global Initiative. Finally, Ploumen will pursue her fight against Female Genital Mutilation and Violence against Women in general.

​Elisabeth van der Steenhoven
Director WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform


Austin Ruse said...

Most countries at the UN are weary of the tired old debate about sexual and reproductive rights. The debate is over and you have lost. You will lose here, too....
The world is really supposed to follow....Holland? Really?

Anonymous said...