Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CSW58 Agreed Conclusions

Here you can find the Agreed Conclusions of CSW58! It was the first time governments agreed to a gender stand-alone goal in the Post-2015 agenda, in combination with integration in ALL the other goals:

Para 43. "The Commission urges States to build on the lessons from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as the new post-2015 development agenda is being shaped. It urges States to tackle critical remaining challenges through a transformative and comprehensive approach and calls for gender equality, the empowerment of women and human rights of women and girls to be reflected as a stand-alone goal and to be integrated through targets and indicators into all goals of any new development framework."

Thanks to all for reading this blog, and for your active contributions and sharing it through your own social media.

WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

Saturday, March 22, 2014

UN Commission Calls for Increased Efforts to Promote Gender Equality

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women ended early this morning with a strong call to prioritize gender equality and the human rights of women in order to achieve sustainable development.

The Commission was convened at the UN headquarters in New York to address the challenges and achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in improving the lives of women and girls in developing countries. While the MDGs resulted in a reduction of poverty in some respects, the goals furthest from being achieved are those focused on women and girls—particularly on achieving gender equality and improving maternal health. With the MDGs set to expire in 2015, the Commission's outcome document will help shape priorities for the next global development framework.

The Commission specifically called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, a move that was applauded by women’s rights activists.

A stand-alone goal on gender equality signals that gender equality and women’s rights are important in and of themselves, as well as a priority for governmental investment. It recognizes that sustainable and meaningful development must address the root causes of gender inequality, which deny women and girls an education, the right to make decisions about their bodies and childbearing, to decent employment—and equal pay for equal work— and to live free of violence.

The Commission also stated that the post-2015 development agenda must include gender-specific targets across other development goals, strategies, and objectives—especially those related to education, health, economic justice, and the environment. It also called on governments to address the discriminatory social norms and practices that foster gender inequality, including early and forced marriage and other forms of violence against women and girls, and to strengthen accountability mechanisms for women’s human rights.

The Agreed Conclusions reaffirmed the Cairo Programme of Action as well as the Beijing Platform of Action, which called for investments in "quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care" including emergency contraception, information and education, safe abortion where allowed by law, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.  Furthermore, the Conclusions called for the recognition of the human rights of women to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality... free from coercion, discrimination, and violence."

Member States today recognized that progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals—which include eradicating poverty and expanding access to health services such as reproductive health—has been held back due to persistent “unequal power relations between women and men,” particularly discriminatory laws, social norms, and gender stereotypes.

The governments expressed concern that several critical issues related to gender equality were not adequately addressed by the MDGs, including violence against women and girls; harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation; women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights; women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid work, particularly unpaid care work; the gender wage gap; women’s equal access to and control of resources including land; women’s inheritance rights; and women’s full participation in decision-making at all levels.

The Commission called for measures to ensure universal access to primary education, especially for girls and vulnerable youth, as well as measures to strengthen the ability of women to participate in formal and informal labor sectors.  The governments also called for efforts to ensure that women’s rights and health obtain the prominence they deserve in the next global development framework.

Women’s health and rights organizations applauded governments who stood up for the rights of all individuals to live free of violence, discrimination, and barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for girls.  However, advocates expressed disappointment that a small minority of conservative governments spurred on by the Holy See—which holds special observer status at the UN—held up negotiations by objecting to concepts as fundamental as gender and the human rights of women throughout the two weeks of negotiations.

In particular, advocates noted that, despite a 20-year legacy of UN prohibition of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and increasingly on gender identity, government delegates gave in to pressure to exclude recognition of these violations in the final agreed conclusions.

Press release by Communications group of the Women's Rights Caucus

CSW58 - there are agreed conclusions!

Its been a really long night, and thinking I probably wouldnt have much energy to write a blog tonight - I decided to keep a twitter-diary. See below!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Youth Rights Caucus Oral Statement

Yesterday, the Youth Rights Caucus, consisting of young people that actively advocate for sexual rights at the CSW58 - including CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, presented its oral statement. 

“I would like to share the following recommendations from the Youth Rights Caucus at CSW58. 

As we begin to define the post-2015 global development framework, it is absolutely critical that we reflect on and learn from the gaps and successes of the Millennium Development Goals.
While we have seen progress in the last 15 years through the MDGs, the goals that remain furthest from being achieved are those focused on women and girls. This is due to persistent stigma and discrimination against women of all ages and backgrounds,  inadequate investment in comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services, and a lack of willingness to champion women and girls' sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

We are deeply troubled by recent retrogression on issues agreed to decades  ago and the lack of political will to champion our rights.  With our lives at stake, it is an imperative that Member States take action and not only re-commit to upholding our rights, but advance them. 

Specifically, we urge you to agree to the following priorities:
  • Respect, protect, and fulfill the sexual rights of all women and girls.
  • Fully commit to the provision of youth-friendly comprehensive sexuality education for all young people and adolescents, in and out of school.
  • Provide access to comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion services and emergency contraception.
  • Acknowledge and address the root causes of gender inequalities, including social norms that permit and promote violence and discrimination against women and girls;
  • Take immediate action to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender based violence, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices; and
  • Ensure all women and girls have equal rights and access to resources and opportunities for decision making at all levels - thereby promoting socio-economic and political equality and justice
This means committing to a post-2015 development agenda that:
  • Is grounded in human rights principles, and prioritizes gender equality, social, economic, and environmental justice;
  • Meaningfully engages women’s and youth organizations at all levels in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs and policies;
  • Incorporates the outcomes of the ICPD 20 year review process, especially the Bali Global Youth Declaration
  • Eliminates all forms of discrimination against women and girls, including persons living with HIV/AIDS, those living with disabilities, people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and other marginalized groups; and
  • Includes targets that reflect the intersectional nature of gender inequalities, and address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization.
If we are serious about a development agenda that will eradicate poverty, it is the responsibility of governments to accept and respond to the realities of women and girls. Therefore, we must include in our next development agenda a standalone goal on gender equality and women's and girls' human rights as well as cross-cutting gender-sensitive targets that guarantee those rights.

Young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights can no longer be deemed "too controversial" to include in the agenda.  We are looking to Member States' strong political commitment to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda makes a real difference for women and girls.”

To see the statement in moving imagery, please see the website of the {Youth Coalition}[http://www.youthcoalition.org/un-processes/csw58-oral-statement/].

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Feminists using facts

It is getting later and later here at the UN building. It is a bit after 10 in the evening, and negotiations are expected to take a couple more hours. When will they finish? No one knows yet. At the moment government delegations are going back and forth through the text. Every time a paragraph is discussed a couple of words are shifted around, removed or added - but few paragraphs are agreed and by far the majority are put aside for another moment during the evening. And then the next paragraph is looked at. Und so fort - und so weiter. 

The third day of negotiations started this afternoon around 3. Regional strategic sessions, including by EU member states, were going on since early morning. And there are "bilaterals" (meetings between 2 countries from different regions) and cross-regional meetings taking place all day too. Needless to say, everyone is getting a little tired. We as civil society are sticking around, encouraging delegations to keep up the good work, and advocating for some extra efforts on issues that are emerging as increasingly difficult.

One of those is comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Especially the African Group is vocal against it. Reason for activists to start a twitter campaign. Each message starts with "Feminists using facts:" and then adds examples, such as....

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN = 

More transparancy and respect for mores in NGO CSW community Please

This morning at the end of this mornings NGO CSW briefing I handed over a letter to the NGO Committee on the Status of Women on behalf of several ECOSOC accredited NGO's to the chair of the Committee, Ms. Soon-Young Yoon.
The procedural errors at the NA/European/NIS caucus last week prompted some Dutch NGOs to draft the letter. We think it is very important that participants in the CSW-NGO process are familiar with the written and unwritten procedures with respect to UN in general and the CSW process in particular. It was obvious last week that several are not (yet) and that some took the approach that the (their?) end justifies the means.

So we shared our concerns and formulated practical suggestions to overcome the gaps in knowledge:

  • A more extended/accurate description of the caucus process (and the distinction between a caucus and a group) at http://www.ngocsw.org/ngo-csw-forum and in the Handbook.
  • Explanation of the caucus process at the NGO CSW Forum Consultation Day and during the morning NGO CSW briefings.
  •  A (short) training module for facilitators of the regional caucuses, including unbiased facilitation but also clarity on procedures from the CSW organising side for the benefit of facilitators (who otherwise have no guidance available on how to sort out disagreement among participants).
  • A constructive conversation, possibly via email, with representative(s) that are familiar with the process about improvements in the procedure, for instance on the subject of ensuring the inclusion of minority opinions in the consensus process, and/or ensuring that non-accredited NGOs do not dominate caucus debates let alone caucus decision making.

We firmly believe that following proper procedures by NGOs with respect to each other ultimately will strengthen joint lobby and improve the understanding between governments and civil society in the CSW-process.
We firmly believe that following proper procedures by NGOs with respect to each other ultimately We will need both to make next years CSW and the commemoration of Beijing next year a success.
We invite all of you to participate in a constructive conversation via email.

ECOSOC Accredited NGOs that endorsed the letter: 

COC Netherlands

Cordaid (the Netherlands)

Dutch Women's Council

Hivos (Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, the Netherlands)

International Network of Liberal Women

RFSL, (The Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights)

Rutgers/WPF (the Netherlands)

The Netherlands Association of Women's Rights, Women's Work and Equal Citizenship

Tiye International (Platform of the National Organisations of black, migrant and refugee women) 

Unfortunately it is not (yet) possible to upload a PDF to the blogspot, the full letter in PDF however can be requested via womenny@gmail.com

Leontine Bijleveld

MenCare+ Consortium delivers oral statement at CSW58

On 20 March at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Rutgers WPF and the MenCare+ Consortium delivered an oral statement asking for increased attention to involve men in improving the position of women and girls. The statement was presented by Joni van de Sand from WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform.
"The new global Post-2015 Development Agenda aims to improve the position of women and girls. Engaging men as allies in this endeavour has been proven to work around the world. Men have the potential to contribute towards improving gender equality, and many men already do."
Around the world men are doing their share of caregiving at home, are speaking out against gender-based violence and are supporting girls’ and women’s empowerment.
To break through and change harmful and unhealthy perceptions of what it means to be a man, men and women together are redefining concepts of manhood, relationships, sexuality and caregiving.
In light of the Post-2015 agenda, the MenCare+ consortium wishes to emphasize the need to:
  1. work with men as supportive partners in sexual and reproductive health and rights by engaging men in family planning and prenatal, maternal and child health to create better outcomes for women, children and men themselves;
  2. prevent gender-based violence by engaging men as partners and allies, and by creating safe spaces for men and women to address harmful norms and work through past experiences of violence; and 
  3. encourage men to be involved as caring fathers, by advocating for a legal framework around parental leave and family-friendly policies.

Engaging boys and men is crucial and strategic to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights for all; to reduce gender-based violence; and to promote equal relationships.
Becoming a father is a ‘life-event’ that offers a chance to reach young men with a new perspective on what it means to be a parent. In South Africa, we have young father’s group sessions, where we talk about the responsibilities, the insecurities and the excitement of becoming a father. I’d like to quote the words of a facilitator from one of these sessions: “Fathers grow into their role one day at a time …”
When men become more gender equitable, caring and engaged partners and fathers, there is less gender-based violence; women enjoy better sexual and reproductive health; children develop better; and men themselves become happier and healthier.
I believe all of us here together, we are united in our mission to achieve gender equality. Therefore, we must all ensure both women and men are included in our work! Thank you for your attention.
You can download the full statement on the website of RutgersWPF.

Feminist groups recognized!

Some great news from last night's negotiations. "Feminist groups" have been recognized in the Agreed Conclusions!

"25 bis bis. The Commission acknowledges the major contributions made by civil society, including women’s and community based organizations and feminist groups in placing the interests, needs and visions of women on national, regional and international agendas. AD REF"

Not in the least because of the great leadership from the negotiators from South Africa and Egypt!

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN = 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The ABC of CSW58

By Zoe Nussy, Michiel Andeweg, Joni van de Sand, Heather Barclay

This is an ABC of words you hear a lot here @ CSW58. Here goes:

Abstinence - you'll hear this from the conservative opposition  - they're trying to promote this as the best way to address the HIV epidemic

Beijing is a great landmark agreement for women's rights, but a lot has advanced since then. We're working to make sure that our rights are left not in 1995, and that the advances we have made have been recognised.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education is the best way to give people the ability to make free and positive decisions about their sexuality. Now we are reminding member states of its importance so they keep it in the final document.

Diversity - that is a word that you may not hear here. We are fighting hard to have "women in all their diversity" reflected in the text. And others are fighting to take it out.

Elimination of violence and discrimination is central in the CSW negotiations and the post-2015 framework

Family -We are seeing a lot of references to the importance of "The Family". Now we just need to be sure that they add "all forms of the family." It's a hard fight but every family should be recognised.

God - The Holy See is here negotiating on behalf of the world's Catholics - however that their views don't represent a lot of their congregations around the world.

Humour- after a lot of prep time and many long nights, sometimes as sense of humour is all that keeps us and the delegates going (practicing flash mobs in the hallway....)

International - the real challenge of CSW comes alive when trying to develop an international framework that works in every country from Australia to Zambia. How do you make it real for women and girls around the world?

Justice, rights and reparation - for the CSW to be meaningful, it must be enforceable. After we all leave New York we need to ask our governments what they are doing to realise these rights on the ground.

Knowledge is power - by working together and sharing intelligence, the Women's Rights Caucus influences the negotiations and hold states to account for their actions.

LBT - You won't hear much about in the negotiations about LBT, the language at the UN is "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". This is a more open term and the preferred UN language, but either way it is very hard to get member states from conservative countries to recognise that discrimination against this group must end.

Member state - The UN is a member state club - we can influence them but at the end of the day, it's up to the states to negotiation the positions and push for our issues.

Negotiation - above and beyond anything else, CSW is a negotiation. Which means that countries have to discuss their positions and reach consensus. Our challenge is always to make sure that our more controversial issues don't get "traded" away for the sake of coming to an agreement.

Outcomes - although the negotiations can be hard and sometimes really dispiriting, it's essential that we keep our eye on the prize. Year on year we are making progress and our work here is paying off for women and girls all over the world

Post-2015 - a lot of the discussion at CSW58 is on the post-2015 development framework and its outcome will feed into the wider UN negotiations on this. So we are working hard to makes sure that there is a good strong call for a standalone goal on gender in the Agreed Conclusions.

Questions are sometimes asked: why are we here? What is the point? The CSW is the only place in the world where the global community comes together to set the agenda for women's human rights. We are here because we believe in women, and the point is to set the normative human rights framework to improve the lives of women and men all over the world

Right to Development - We believe - and the outcome document of Rio+20 does too - that every individual has a right to development. Shame that some countries seem to have forgotten this...

Sexual rights are being rejected in all forms - CSE, Sexual orientation, sexual health -  and we are working with allies to explain why it is central to human rights and therefore to development.

Transformative approach - many states are calling for a transformative approach to gender equality, which means addressing the underlying causes and social norms that result in gender inequality

Universality - human rights belong to every person regardless of "who they love or how they look", as Ban Ki Moon said.

Values - Ultimately we are all here because of our values. We believe that all people have the right to decide freely and fully about all matters relating to their bodies, lives and sexualities.

Women Human Rights Defenders - you would not think that protecting the human rights of those women that fight for the rights of others is controversial. But here at the CSW it is.

X - paragraph X alt in the current draft being negotiated refers to countries' obligations to meet their ODA commitments. We think that these commitments are essential to realising meaningful development. Let's hope the donor countries think so too.

Young people  are playing an active role at CSW, as official delegates on government delegations, lobbying and moving the progressive agenda forward.

ZZzzzzz - the sounds of snoring is something that you will never hear at CSW. The day starts as early as 5am to prepare positions and fact sheets, then there are breakfast caucus meetings, lunch strategy sessions, then negotiations all day, ending when the text is finalised. This never happens in working hours; I'm posting this at 2.30am - and now it's finally time for my zzzzzzzzz.

Defending the rights of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women at the CSW58

This year, the Commission on the Status of Women focuses on development. When we are genuinely thinking about development, women’s human rights, and equality for all, it’s very important to ask ourselves who benefit from development, and who are being left out.

Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are among the last groups that benefit from development. Access to employment, health care, education and housing are often not guaranteed for women who do not conform to existing ideas of gender and sexuality roles. Discrimination on the work floor can lead to women being fired, not hired for jobs that they are qualified for, or being harassed by co-workers or superiors. Women and girls are bullied in schools, or even kicked out, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Violence and threats against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women have a severe impact on their health and wellbeing. And making sure you have a roof over your head is pretty hard when you don’t have a decent job, or when you’re being discriminated against by the people that should provide the housing.

It is clear that any discussion about development and human rights should include considerations about discrimination against women, on any grounds, but definitely also on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, for some states even talking about the rights of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender is a non-starter. They argue that these concepts are ‘new concepts’, that these rights are ‘new rights’. As Eugenia Lopez, one of the panelists in COC’s parallel event last Friday remarked: “They say there is no agreed language. Well, I want to ask them: have you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? It says that all human beings are born free and equal. It says that everyone is entitled to the same rights, without distinction of any kind.”

During this CSW, something amazing happened: countries that never spoke out about these issues before, are now being vocal. El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines and other states have defended the inclusion of the particular situation of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in the Agreed Conclusions. The fact that it’s countries from Latin America and Asia who are championing this cause here proves that it is not – as states like Russia and Uganda would like us to believe – a “Western idea”.

But of course, the CSW is not just about development. It is also, and maybe even more so, about geopolitics, strategic battles, and attempts to limit the rights of women in general, and especially those rights that are linked to sexuality. Amidst the overwhelming conservative forces, it is tempting to regard sexual orientation and gender identity – or the acronym that is often used within the UN: “SOGI” – as a topic of lower priority.

But this is not about an acronym. This is not about strategy. This is about women’s lives, about their human rights, about them being able to go to school or to go to the doctor. For them to have a house and a job. For them to live without fear and threat. It is about my transgender friends in Honduras. It is about my lesbian colleagues in Botswana.

It is about the commitment to securing human rights for everyone, without distinction of any kind. I invite the individuals who take place in those negotiation seats in the last two days of the CSW, and all of those who will be working on the post-2015 development agenda, to keep that reality in mind. These women fight for change every day of their lives. You can give them a hand. 

Nori Spauwen, International Advocacy Officer, COC Netherlands

Solving Bangladesh’s ‘Living Wages’ Problem Demands Global Support

Shiwani Neupane (journalist from Nepal) published an article in E-zine Pass Blue, covering the UN, about the Decent Work- Living Wages side event monday last week.
E-zine Pass Blue 

In the mean time it is clear that there is no language anymore in the draft agreed conclusions on living wages. Whether the representatives of the Dutch and the German governments have taken any efforts to have the issue included is best known to themselves.

Tuesday - observations on the first day of "real" negotiations

At the end of the second day, two confusing sentiments co-exist:

There are some who are saying: “The negotiations have always been about looking at the future – now a lot of energy is spent on defending what has been agreed in the past. This is frustrating. This is supposed to be a transformative moment, instead we are barely holding the line.”

Then there are others who are saying: “The atmosphere is still very good in the negotiation room. Last year around this time there was already a lot of tension. In fact, it is so calm – it kinda makes you wonder whether something is going on that we do not know about yet, and will be surprised by at the last moment…”

So, let’s just have a look at some of the central elements around the negotiations:

There is a lot to do about the right to development. The sentiment of “Southern” countries is that “when we have to give something, you also have to give something.” Until the “North” gives in a bit on issues related to the current global macro-economic system which perpetuates inequalities (such as on climate change, financing, sustainable patterns of consumption, trade agreements) the G77 countries - with an important role played by China - will not push for women’s human rights language.

Another contentuous issue regards language about family. The stance of women’s rights activists is very clear: we would rather have no family mentioned at all if the diversity of families is not acknowledged. During the briefing of the EU delegation for NGOs, it was clear that we can find a strong ally in the EU: For the EU it is important that we dont talk of family in the sense that we dictate what it should look like. Family should be understood as diverse because the world is changing. We feel that you still have to see members of the family as individuals, because in the family a lot of ills in the world play out. For example domestic violence. We try to stick diversity.”

Two short notes on actors in the room:

The Holy See (Vatican) has been very focal in the room this year. Usually they are rather silent and work behind the schenes, through other countries speaking out. This year them speaking up according to many means that they must feel support to do so. I like to think that it is rather that they have to speak up themselves because others are not willing to do so for them ;)

Very good news is that South Africa is finally speaking out, and doing a good job at it supporting women’s rights language. Djibouti is no longer speaking on behalf of the African group. Like the EU the African Group has a joined position, and Djibouti was speaking on behalf of the whole group – but is said not to have consulted many countries in the group. Africa was, so tos peak “hijacked” by the conservative countries. This is now turning.

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN = 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tick the (Gender) Box: Will the real feminist please stand up?

Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel attended the CSW for the first week, and being back home there is a question on his mind, which he would like to submit to you:

Tick the (Gender) Box: Will the real feminist please stand up?

A Feminist is…. (Please tick the box that most applies to your views)

(   ) ..a woman who hates all men.

(   ) ..a woman who’s okay with accepting and maybe even involving men but who’ll  never admit that in public.

(   )..a woman or a man who believes and speaks out openly that all men and women are (created) equal and therefore should be able to enjoy their human rights to the fullest.
This man or woman is happy with all people - man, woman and everything in between - willing to join him/her in the endeavour of making gender equality a reality in every society on this earth.

Which box will you tick? Please let me know, so I can add you to my list of ‘like mindeds, or make an appointment with you, to grab a cup of coffee or tea, to have a chat.

All the best,

Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel
Advocate for Gender Equality @RutgersWPF

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday reflections - eagerly waiting for tomorrow afternoon

Today was a “break-day” as someone from a government delegation mentioned. Unlike announced yesterday, the negotiations did not continue today, but will start again tomorrow (Tuesday 18th) at 1 ‘o clock. They are expected to carry on long into the evening/night, and will continue the next day. Halfway on Thursday the facilitator of the negotiations plans to have the final version ready. Negotiations have been slow “but hardly contentuous” another government delegate said. While the good spirit between delegations is good news, the slowness (which is nothing new in comparison to previous years) means we are all likely to have a couple of long days and nights ahead of us.

The 3rd draft of the Agreed Conclusions came in a bit after noon. The text is now 28 pages long and is streamlined – which means repetitions have been grouped together and aligned to comprehensive paragraphs. Only 2 paragraphs are “ADD REF” which means agreed. This implies that a lot of negotiating still needs to take place. As of now it is too late to put any “new language” in. Small wordings can be added (for example: “women’s rights” together with gender equality and women’s empowerment to strengthen the rights based approach). And things that were previously proposed which were taken out can be put in again. But topics which have not been on the table before, can not be put in anymore.

Without trying to be extensive (which is absolutely impossible because of the complexity and richness of the text), here are just a couple of things that stand out:

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are in one paragraph:

19. FACILITATOR’S PROPOSAL The Commission is concerned that several critical issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women issues were not adequately addressed by the MDGs such as: […]women’s and adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and [reproductive] rights [in accordance with the ICPD,][the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences,] [stipulating the respect for cultural values and religious beliefs] […]”

Now here it is important that around “reproductive” […] will be removed, in order not to isolate sexual rights from reproductive rights. Also the addition of “in accordance with ICPD and the outcome documents of their review conferences” should stay in there, because the years after ICPD the world has advanced and made better agreements which can not be ignored. Obviously – though cultural and religious beliefs are important in the lives of many individuals around the world – the addition should be removed here as it is highly subjective what they are and may easily be used to counter women’s autonomy and rights at country or local level.

There are several rather strange paragraphs on “family”. The addition “in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist” is crucial here. This is in line with agreements from the Beijing Platform of Action – which is still the cornerstone of CSW. Also when the importance of “maternity” and “motherhood” is mentioned, easily “paternity” and “fatherhood” can be added. After all, this conference is about the status of women – which is very unlikely to improve unless also men and boys take up and/or are appreciated for their caretaking roles. Which, by the way, is included in the text in several paragraphs, including (o): “promote the equal sharing of responsibilities and chores between men and women in care giving and domestic work and the change of attitudes that reinforce the division of labour based on gender, in order to promote shared family responsibility for work in the home and reduce the domestic work burden for women and girls”

Wherever there is “gender” it is placed between […] which means that it is not agreed and the facilitator leaves open the opportunity to negiate it. For gender equality and women’s rights activists it is important that this stays in, as it goes beyond biologically determined sex.

Interesting also is the discussion within the Women’s Rights Caucus (consisting of NGOs and activists) about the economic growth model. For example 21 bis. “These crises reflect the need for a shift from the current economic model, which perpetuates gender inequality and women’s poverty.” A critical analysis of the currect growth-based economic model, which led to the crises, is necessary if we really want to address root causes of poverty and inequalities, and come to a sustainable transformation in which both people and planet can benefit from development. 

More to come tomorrow!

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN =  

Celebration March: Global Women for Equality, Development and Peace

Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk van International Network of Liberal Women participated in a march for women's rights during CSW58. Here she shares some of the photos she took and a short anecdote on her experiences (in Dutch):

Een 100 tal kleurig uitgedoste vrouwen die zichtbaar uit de hele wereld komen, verzamelen zich getooid in allerlei hoofddeksels bij First avenue tegenover het UN gebouw. Daar krijgen zij allen een sjerp uitgereikt waar men vrij is er zelf een leus op te schrijven. Vandaar zet de groep zich langzaam in beweging... 

De vrouwen die deelnemen aan deze 2014 Celebration March: Global Women for Equality, Development and Peace scanderen wat ongecoördineerd "Women's rights are human Rights!" En "No more rape". Er wordt langzaam gelopen en vooraan loopt achter een lang spandoek onder meer de voorzitter van de NGO CSW/NY, Soon-Young Yoon. 

Via Second Avenue komt de mars tot een eind op de Dag Hammerskjold Plaza. Daar wachten velen de vrouwen op en wordt er ook een tweede spandoek ontwaard; die met het toekomstig onderwerp van volgend jaar "2015, Beijing post 20". Achter die spandoek één van de Nederlandse deelnemers aan CSW : Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk van International Network of Liberal Women, zij roept uit volle borst met de anderen mee: Women's rights are Human rights! Zou men dat in 2015 nu eindelijk overal begrijpen?"

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On the eve of the second week - where do we stand?

Tomorrow the second week of CSW begins. During the weekend most of us have taken the - much needed - time to relax a bit, catch up informally, and gather strength for the week to come. A new version of the agreed conclusions is expected tomorrow morning at the latest, and will be negotiated the coming days. This new text will include the facilitator's proposals, taking into account all that has been written and said by government delegations during the reading last Thursday and Friday (which ended at 1 'o clock Friday night!). Everyone is awaiting the new text full of aspiration...

In a recent interview with AWID, activist Cynthia Rothschild - an active member of the international Women's Rights Caucus in which WO=MEN members also participate - highlights a similar sentiment that was echoed by those who were present at the EU briefing on Tuesday. What it comes down to, and I am using my own wording now, is that civil society calls on governments to go beyond "holding the line" on what has already been agreed to years ago, but to go forwards and be ambitious - by really placing women's human rights, women's empowerment and gender equality at the center of sustainable development. This of course taking into account that this year's CSW is about the challenges and achievements of the Millennium Development Goals from a gender perspective, and the lesson we learn from this for the Post-2015 development agenda. 

Considering the good news coming out from the conference room about the Thursday-Friday negotiations, we are positive that this CSW will end with an agreement, which will reflect progress. The atmosphere in the room is good, delegates are respectful towards each other and listen. And the group of likeminded countries, which advocate for progress on contentuous issues such as sexual and reproductive rights and recognition of the marginalization of people on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity - is bigger than ever. The EU, which in recent years has split up over sexual rights, continues to have the same, shared position on including SRHR in the text. So we are ready! Let week 2 begin.... 

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN = 

CSW Reflections from an Advocacy Rooky

It is Sunday evening in New York - the first week of CSW has come to a close, and many NGO prepresentatives from around the world have gone back home. Including Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel from WO=MEN member Rutgers WPF, who shares here with us how he looks back now on that first week:

I really need to write down my thoughts and reflections, cause I’m afraid I will loose it if I don’t start to download and share it soon. To free some space on my hard drive and to inform you on what’s going on inside of me.

The danger of a conference like CSW is in both focussing and in not focussing your attention and time. Let me try to explain.

If you DO focus for example on attending side events, but you don’t follow up with advocating key influencers and decision makers, change ain’t gonna happen. On the other hand, if you DO focus on tackling the opposition or your own delegation you might end up frustrated by the dirty politics, the way the UN system works and the seemingly unwillingness from the delegation to listen to you. And quite frankly, you don’t want to listen to yourself either, because you sound sour and miss the passion and moving stories from the side events you didn’t go to.

But the other side of the coin is not a rose garden either. If you DON’T focus, you will either get lost in the side events circus, or you collapse from exhaustion in trying to keep up with everything and running from Church Centre to DHL Auditorium or from Salvation Army to Armenian Convention Centre and back to General Assembly.

The challenge is in striking the right balance in getting yourself inspired, engaged and informed, through listening to all the women & a few men from all over the world. Coming from grass roots levels working with marginalized people to increase their access, knowledge and agency in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, to experts with 50 years of experience in working for UN Agencies or being Heads of States. And then from this state of being inspired, engaged and informed, you can optimally engage yourself into hard core advocacy, lobbying your government delegation & permanent missions with thematic fact sheets, moving personal stories and detailed language input suggestions.

But unfortunately, we don’t live in an advocacy paradise. And advocates are also just humans. With rights, Human Rights, not women’s rights. Why make this distinction all the time? But let’s not go there now, that’s another discussion topic altogether.

To conclude, I’d just like to quote the words spoken by Marcio from Brazil, a man growing up in a setting of domestic violence, who’s slowly coming to terms with his past and is choosing to redefine stereotypical notions of masculinity – Because he wants to be a caring father for his son and a caring, responsible and loving husband to his wife:

The rain doesn’t come all at once. Ping, Ping, Ping. But drop after drop it will move into a strong river.*

Step by step, this Advocacy Rooky will learn how to become a powerful advocate for gender equality and human rights.

Mark-Pieter van den Heuvel, Advocacy Officer ASK & MenCare+, Rutgers WPF

See the short film clip @http://vimeo.com/75783707 or a version with Marcio’s detailed story @http://vimeo.com/54610333

Saturday, March 15, 2014

National Action Plans on UNSCR 1325 - Financing their implementation

UN Women’s Natalia Zakharova’s opening speech set the stage: Many countries have NAPs, which are not funded. To develop action plans is the first step, but how real is the commitment when an action plan is not resourced? The NAPs 1325 Global Review, coördinated by UN Women together with civil society and financed a.o. by the Dutch government, shows that the issue of financing particularly has been a concern. “Without money it is impossible to implement and generate change on the ground. An allocated budget is a signal of real political commitment. We are still not very succesful to get this done.”

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza – International Coördinator for the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP - chair of the event) said that the report of UN Secretary General of 2010 identified two issues: lack of political will and lack of dedicated funding for national level implementation. How to deal with these challenges is the subject of today’s session.

Cordaid’s Dewi Suralaga presented the findings from a “Costing and Financing Study” (2011) by Cordaid and GNWP. Key findings are that financing for NAPs 1325 is mostly unearmarked; that many governments finance NAP1325 implementation based on (shifting) national priorities and do not fund all pillars equally or adequately; and that the critical role of women’s human rights organizations, networks and movements are not adequately supported financially nor recognized fully in practice. Cordaid and GNWP are facilitating a discussion for setting up two of the main recommendations:
  1. A Women, Peace and Security Financing Discussion Group
  2. A Global Acceleration Fund for Women, Peace and Security

Dewi Suralaga: “Currently the space is lacking to bring all the initiatives and good practices together. The time is ripe: UN Women’s Global Study will take this year. Next year there will be a High Level review process. And of course the Post-2015 agenda development. […] Membership has to be multi-stakeholder. Individuals of both technical background on financing and political background in Women, Peace and Security should participate. Representation must be diverse and balanced, with intersecting identities taking part. Cordaid is willing to facilitate the initial phase to start up this group.”

The next speakers in the panel highlighted some of the challenges and achievements they have witnessed in developing and implementing NAP1325.
  • South Sudan had national consultations and a NAP was developed, but just 2 weeks after validating the NAP the crisis hit in. Peace is not there and women’s rights are violated. The country faces huge challenges.
  • In the NAP of Sierra Leone they have moved from a state security to a human security approach. Besides UNSCR 1325 the NAP includes 1820 on (sexual) violence against women. Financing priorities include working together with private sector actors. To coordinate coopration across regions in the country, there is a coordination pillar. Sierra Leone is prepared to be “a very, very active member of the financing working group” said Charles Vandi  - Director of Gender Affairs.
  • Nepal is the first in South Asia to have a NAP, and second in Asia-Pacific (Philippines being the first one). Unique about Nepal is that it is one of very few countries that has dedicated funds to the NAP. Its NAP is administrered by the country itself and not by UNDP like most others.
  • Irma van Dueren from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained how The Netherlands is currently working on its second NAP, together with three ministries and over 40 NGOs, including diaspora organizations. Thematic focus is on women’s political participation, with projects carried out in 6 countries: Burundi, South Sudan, Sudan, DRC, Colombia, Afghanistan – as well as in the MENA region. “We do innovative projects that are not already done by others.  Big money is not everything, we also need to work on political commitment in those countries. We also work on peacekeeping missions with police on gender-sensitivity. And with the Spanish government to get women, peace and security into NATO policies. Recently we worked with Syrian women to get them into the peace process in Geneva. It involved funding but also a lot of political work with countries and the UN.
  • Ursula Keller from the SWISS Agency for Development Cooperation: In view of Post2015 agenda, Switserland and The Netherlands advocate for a stand-alone goal on peace and security. As well as a gender-mainstreaming approach accross all goals, with targets and indicators.
  • Lee Webster from WomanKind Worldwide UK. It is high time we have high-level discussions on financing for women, peace and secrity. One thing that all WPS organizations have in common, is that while most of the time they work on innovative projects and strategies – they all struggle with funding. Do we need another fund? In those countries where there are no funds, yes!
Mavic rounded off the presentations by looking ahead: Cordaid and GNWP will develop a concept note for a women, peace and security financing group. It will be put online and send to the ones present in the room. “We want you to be part of this discussion. Deciding on the criteria for membership of the group.” Cordaid is leading this process, in collaboration with GNWP and UN Women. 

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN =

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WO=MEN interview met Minister Ploumen: wat is haar inzet & analyse CSW58?

Elisabeth van der Steenhoven (WO=MEN) interviewde voor Vice Versa minister Liliane Ploumen over haar inzet bij en analyse van de CSW. Lees het volledige artikel op ViceVersaOnline.

Twee weken geleden sprak u  met het Vaticaan in Rome:  gaat de Heilige Stoel dit jaar weer tegen de term gender ageren?
‘Nou, er is een nieuwe paus. Hij laat nadrukkelijk een ander geluid horen. Het Vaticaan heeft zich nadrukkelijk gekeerd tegen de wet die homoseksualiteit strafbaar maakt. Dat betekent niet dat het Vaticaan achter homoseksualiteit staat, wel dat geprobeerd wordt uitsluiting en criminalisering te voorkomen.
Wat de onderhandelingen betreft: het blijft afwachten of en hoe het nieuwe geluid doorwerkt bij de CSW onderhandelingen. De ervaring bij de CSW leert dat naarmate de tijd vordert alle pijnpunten scherp aan het licht komen.’
U heeft nu met het Vaticaan gesproken, gaat u nog met andere religieuze leiders of stromingen in dialoog over vrouwenrechten en gendergelijkheid?
‘Ja, absoluut. Ik wil graag in gesprek met verschillende katholieke stromingen maar ook met andere religies. En het is belangrijk dat mannen en vrouwen in eigen land het gesprek aangaan met hun religieuze leiders.  Daarom was het voorbeeld van jongeren in Libanon die hun Orthodoxe, Islamitische, Katholieke en Joodse leiders aanspraken zeer inspirerend.’
Over lastige onderwerpen gesproken: u zet zich in voor een aparte gender doelstelling en het integreren van gender in alle andere doelen. Gaat dat lukken, komt er een doel dat zich richt op gendergelijkheid ?
‘Tja, het is zeker geen gelopen race maar het moet lukken. Bijna iedereen snapt dat het noodzakelijk is om apart te investeren in vrouwen en gendergelijkheid, al was het alleen om economische redenen. Dus ik denk wel dat er uiteindelijk een apart genderdoel gaat komen- maar wat de precieze bewoordingen en vorm zullen zijn is nog maar de vraag. Het houdt ook in dat overheden, het maatschappelijk middenveld en alle anderen moeten doorgaan met heel hard knokken. Door samen met organisaties uit vrouwonvriendelijke landen op te trekken, door druk uit te oefenen op de politiek in eigen land en door nieuwe verbanden te smeden.’
Een van de ergernissen van het maatschappelijk middenveld is het feit dat het post-2015 proces weer ouderwets achter gesloten deuren wordt gevoerd. Gaat het alsnog een participatief proces worden, met ruimte voor o.a. NGO’s en genderactivisten?
‘Ze zullen wel moeten. Het merendeel van de landen zal inzien dat het noodzakelijk is, anders is post-2015 gedoemd te mislukken. Dat bleek ook tijdens de  CSW- bijeenkomst van 2012. Mede door de gesloten houding van sommige overheden is het toen niet gelukt om tot een overeenkomst te komen.’
Tot slot: activisten wereldwijd constateren dat het gebrek aan implementatie, aan uitvoering, fnuikend is voor zowel de Millenniumdoelen als andere verdragen omtrent vrouwenrechten. Hoe zit het met de Nederlandse implementatie van vrouwenrechtenverdragen?
‘Kijk maar naar de Nederlandse inzet voor Resolutie 1325 [ een resolutie waarin gender een integraal onderdeel wordt van het veiligheidsbeleid, red]. Hierin werken verschillende ministeries samen. Gender is een centraal onderdeel van het Nederlands buitenlands beleid, dat was ook in vorige kabinetten het geval.
Over Nederland: natuurlijk kan het altijd beter. Het is schokkend dat wellicht  1 op de 3 vrouwen in Nederland geconfronteerd is geweest met huiselijk of seksueel geweld.  En het is idioot dat vrouwen nog steeds 19% minder verdienen dan mannen.  Maar in Nederland is er wel  een grote drive om te werken aan de implementatie van internationale verdragen voor vrouwenrechten en gendergelijkheid.’
Elisabeth van der Steenhoven
Directeur WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform

What's at stake at CSW58 - Women's Human Rights

Today the "informals" start. The coming 2 days government delegations will be locked-up in a room going through the latest draft of the Agreed Conclusions paragraph by paragraph. They started this morning at 10:00, will pause for a break from 13:00-15:00, and expect it to be a long night going through all the 39 pages. The aim is to streamline the text, making it shorter by getting rid of repetitions. More importantly, this is the moment to see what different regions' and states' positions are. For example, the Vatican which last year proposed more amendments than any other member, has so far been silent.

Overall what's really at stake this year is not necessarily "gender" (gender equality) but women's human rights. Several countries aim to take language referring to women's human rights out, saying that the MDGs are a "development" agenda and do not deal with "rights". However the international Women's Rights Caucus, consisting of hundreds of activists from all around the world, are making the case that there can be no sustainable development without human rights. As does the UN:

In a recent panel discussion at the UN Human Rights Council, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that peace, development and human rights are inextricably linked. “Human rights are essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing sustainable development. Today’s panel discussion on the post-2015 development framework, therefore, is most timely.” Ban noted that the UN Task Team on Post-2015 recommended that the new development agenda be built on three fundamental principles: human rights, equality and sustainability. He went on to urge all stakeholders “to ensure that international human rights standards and principles help guide our post-2015 goals and objectives.”

UN Women in its position paper on Post-2015:
"The need for a transformative goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment is grounded in the commitment by UN Member States to gender equality and advancing women’s rights. These commitments are enshrined in global treaties, most notably CEDAW; in policy commitments such as the Programme of Action agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and the resulting Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and, more recently, the outcome of Rio+20; in relevant outcomes of the General Assembly (GA), including the Millennium Declaration which led to the creation of the MDGs; in the resolutions of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and, in the agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), including, most recently, on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls at CSW 57." (page 10)

Campaigners urge member states to include in the Agreed Conclusions a standalone goal on gender equality and women's empowerment in the post-2015 development goals. We are also calling for gender equality to become the mainstay for all other goals, and for the inclusion of strong language to underscore the importance of upholding women's rights in future agreements.

Fore more background information, read the article "Women's rights the focus as world leaders gather for New York talks in The Guardian.

= Joni van de Sand, WO=MEN =