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 =