Monday, March 3, 2014

CSW58: The Netherlands civil society recommendations

In just a few days time, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) will start! Civil society organizations in The Netherlands and worldwide have been and are preparing.

On the 3rd of February WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform together with Atria - institute on gender equality and women's history - organized a civil society consultation meeting to draft recommendations for the Outcome Document of CSW58. A total of about 40 organizations and individual activists were present. The recommendations target The Netherlands' government delegation, which form part of the EU group, as well as delegations from other countries and regions. 

You can read our recommendations below and download them here. In addition we have developed a working document in the form of an annex, which includes inspiring examples (however by no means a comprehesnive agenda) of gender-targets for the Post-2015 agenda. You can download the annex here.

In the coming weeks this blog will be used by the WO=MEN network to share news about developments at CSW58, including side-events and updates on the informal negotiations.  

= Posted by Joni van de Sand, on behalf of WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform =


The Netherlands’ civil society actors call for an ambitious CSW58 outcome document that contains agreed language to build on and hold all governments and civil society organizations accountable. Based on lessons learned from the MDGs, we recommend a three-track approach enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Post-2015 agenda:

1. A transformative stand-alone goal for gender equality, women’s human rights and women’s empowerment. MDG 3 has been crucial to generate visibility and knowledge on gender equality issues in international development. We are pleased that The Netherlands actively supports and promotes a stand-alone goal in the new agenda. It’s design should enable addressing the root causes of inequalities and discrimination, including those resulting from patriarchal norms, and transform unequal power relations between women and men. One of the targets should address gender based violence, including eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

2.  Gender equality and women’s rights aspects as a cross-cutting issue. Integration in all policy areas and goals through:
o   gender sensitive targets that address discrimination, inequalities in vulnerabilities, and access to and control over decision making institutions and processes;
o   human rights based, gender sensitive indicators, including statistics disaggregated by sex, ethnicity and age;
o   gender sensitive implementation and accountability mechanisms, including gender-budgeting.

3.  Meaningful participation and voice. The Netherlands is an active worldwide promoter of women’s leadership. Assure that women are involved at all levels of decision making. An active role of men and boys in close cooperation with women’s movements is also essential. A meaningful, inclusive and transparent intergovernmental MDG-review and Post-2015 process implies full engagement of civil society and social movements at all stages, including diverse women’s movements, feminists and gender justice activists, and male and female role models of all ages, from all over the world. An important target group are youth and young people because they represent present and future generations.  

Final push & lessons learned 
The MDGs have been designed and implemented to decrease poverty and enhance development. They have failed to address the root causes of poverty: gender inequality and women’s human rights issues were excluded from the agenda, ignoring unequal power relations between women and men. 

Evaluation of the MDGs and deriving lessons learned are essential for the Post-2015 agenda. Rather than summarizing challenges and achievements, the CSW58 outcome document should emphasize analysis of the underlying causes why goals and targets were or were not met. It should provide an action perspective for states and non-state actors: what can be done to make the final push effective for gender equality and women’s human rights through the MDGs? And what are the lessons learned for Post-2015?

A strong push for the implementation of MDGs is urgently needed. Priority should be placed on achieving gender equality, women’s human rights, transforming masculinities, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. While there has been notable progress in a number of the MDGs, the goals that are most off-track and least likely to be achieved are related to gender equality, SRHR and human rights – in particular MDG 3 and 5.

o  MDG 3 - Significant gender equality and women’s human rights issues were excluded from the MDG agenda. The focus on education in MDG3 is limited in its ability to capture gender-based discrimination. Elements that should be addressed in the Post-2015 agenda include gender based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, harmful masculine practices, high quality education – including comprehensive sexuality education, decent work and economic empowerment of women, equality for the law and equal inheritance rights, women’s (political) participation and decision making at all levels, women leadership in fragility, conflict and peace, and engaging men and boys as supporting partners, allies and potential victims.

o   MDG 5 - Current targets cover neither the services nor human rights aspects that are crucial to establishing women’s bodily autonomy and integrity. We urge the importance of providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and eliminate all barriers, including those by law and/or custom, woman and girls might encounter. SRH services should include maternal health, broaden the focus on youth friendly services as well as comprehensive sexuality education and eliminate harmful laws and practices. We also call for engaging men as supportive partners in the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), particularly in family planning, prenatal and antenatal maternal health, the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) and HIV/AIDS, as caregiving partners and engaged fathers.

Pillars for a new global development paradigm
Based on lessons learned from the MDGs we recommend the following pillars for the Post-2015 agenda:

A universal human rights framework. The MDGs have failed to translate the human rights approach outlined by the Millennium Declaration into practice. The new agenda must:
  • Be holistic, inclusive, just and gender-just, equitable and universal. Key concepts to include are autonomy and personal development
  • Place critical attention on women’s interconnected and indivisible rights: sexual, reproductive, civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Apply human rights based indicators.
  • Place specific focus on the most impoverished, vulnerable and marginalized groups, regardless of whether they live in low-, medium-, or high-income countries. These groups include LGBTQ, sex workers, woman survivors of violence, women living with HIV and persons with disabilities.
  • Be in conformity with all treaties on human rights. Rather than merely reaffirming we call for commitment to the implementation, including CEDAW (also: ratification!), Beijing Platform for Action and ICPD Platform of Action, UNSCR1325, etc.

A transformative approach. Without a transformative shift in the way that gender equality and women’s human rights and justice are addressed, a truly sustainable Post-2015 development agenda will not be achieved.
  • Apply a broad definition of and approach to development, which is based on people’s rights, welfare, and health. Key concepts to include are social justice and equality, non-discrimination and sustainability.
  • Transform unequal power relations, between men and women, boys and girls. Change patriarchal norms and values by enabling safe environments, end discrimination at all levels of society and change socially imbedded norms, beliefs and stereotypes. Question harmful notions and practices which might have their origin in the ideas about manhood and womanhood, and promote non-violent, caring and equitable masculinities.
  • Enhance acceptance of all forms of sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Address gendered and other inequalities during and in the prevention of conflict and violence. Acknowledge the relationship between approaches to dealing with conflict in a nonviolent manner, the prevention of gendered violence, and establishing sustainable peace.
Adequate design, implementation and accountability. The MDGs place emphasis on concrete problems and technocratic solutions. The lack of progress on the MDGs for women and girls can be attributed i.a. to structural problems in the design of the MDGs, the absence of an MDG implementation plan and insufficient policies to achieve the desired outcomes. Moreover, the millennium development goals were set on a too voluntary basis.
  • The MDGs need better monitoring, more accountability and disaggregated data. We advocate for adequate mechanisms for implementation, monitoring frameworks and allocation of financial means.
  • Implementation & accountability mechanisms should be in place from the start of the Post-2015 agenda. The Post-2015 agenda should be accompanied by a concrete international implementation/operational plan, and be translated at the national and local levels.
  • Transparent ways of reviewing results are essential. Keep the structure of the annual MDG Summit in place, while inclusion in the Universal Periodic Review-cycle is imperative as well.
  • Sufficient resources need to be allocated to ensure the goals can be met. Meaningful participation and financial support for gender equality and women’s rights organizations is crucial to realize a successful  agenda.