The 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held at the United Nations Headquarters from February 25–March 7, 2008. The CSW is a functioning sub-body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and advancement of women. Forty-five member states of the UN serve on this commission.1 The Commission continues to “emphasize national-level implementation of commitments made at the Fourth World Conference in Beijing and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.”2
The priority theme for this year’s session was “Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.” The session included a high-level roundtable on this theme as well as two interactive expert panels on key policy initiatives. The panels addressed financing and capacity building for incorporating gender perspectives in national economic policies, programs, and budgets. The commission also examined the “emerging issue” of “gender perspectives on climate change.” Members states shared best practices and lessons learned.
This session of the Commission also marked the launch of the Secretary-General’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) spoke during the launch of this campaign, noting that “eliminating violence against women also helps us achieve universal primary education. Education enhances knowledge, opportunity, and the enjoyment of life. It must be a priority focus. When women are educated, their health improves, the survival of their children improves, and society improves.”3
The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY organized a broad lineup of parallel events to occur alongside the official UN program. These parallel events allowed NGO activists and advocates from around the world to convene to share experiences and best practices as well as to further discuss the advancement of women.4 These workshops, caucus meetings, and panels broached a range of topics, some of which included direct links to the officials themes of the session and others branched out from those themes. Some sessions of note include the panel on Sexuality, Gender, Human Rights and the Yogyakarta Principles; Financing Gender Equality in Education; and The Agenda for Adolescent Girls: A Case for Investment and Action.
The parallel events offered a venue for non-governmental representatives to come together while the member states debated resolutions as well as the conclusions regarding financing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Commission itself struggled to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions of the session. Differences ranged from subtle language choice to more substantive elements. For example, the representative of Iran clarified that since they were not a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, they were declining participation from any section referencing that human rights instrument and its monitoring body.5 Some representatives criticized the length of the agreed conclusions, arguing that a more concise directive would have been more useful to member states in determining concrete steps to take. Others, however, pointed out that this was a consensus document and needed to meet the needs of the range of representatives. And, the representative from Chile explained that she would have preferred stronger language on the participation of civil society and the private sector.6
Despite these differences, the Commission was able to adopt several resolutions before the close of the session, including ones on the release of women and children taken hostage; Palestinian women; strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women; female genital mutilation; and women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS.
More than 50 speakers chimed in during the concluding debate of the Commission on the Status of Women. Safiye Cager, the Director of Information on the Executive Board and resource Mobilization Division of UNFPA declared, “It’s time for the world to make women and priority.”7 The Commission was unable to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions by the final schedule day and suspended its work.
Negotiations continued after the official session and the Commission reached consensus on March 13th of this year. The Chair of the Commission, Olivier Belle of Belgium, said that “this has been a decisive, politically intense and forward-looking session” which yielded a “path to the future”8
- “Commission on the Status of Women: Overview” Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, accessed 21 April 2008, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/index.html#about
- Commission on the Status of Women, “Commission on Status of Women Will Hold Fift-second Session at Headquarters, 25 February- 7 March: Will Focus on Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women,” Press release published 22 February 2008, accessed 21 April 2008, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2008/wom1663.doc.htm.
- Thoraya Ahmed Obaid “Launch of the Secretary General’s Campaign on Violence Against Women,” (statement presented at Opening of the 52nd Session of the Commission of Status of Women 25 February 2008), accessed 21 April 2008, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/stmt/SG%20campaign_vaw_final.pdf
- “How We Work, ” The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY, accessed 21 April 2008, http://www.ngocsw.org/en/how-we-work/.
- Commission on the Status of Women, “Women’s Commission, Concluding Session , Adopts Wide-ranging Agreed Conclusions on Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, “ press release published 13 March 2008, accessed on 21 April 2008, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2008/wom1679.doc.htm.
- Commission on the Status of Women, “ “It’s Time for the World to Make Women and Priority’ Women’s Commission Told, As It Hears from More than 50 Speakers in COnclusing Debate,” press release published 3 March 2008, accessed on 21 April 2008. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2008/wom1672.doc.htm.
- Commission the Status of Women, “Women’s Commission, Concluding Session” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2008/wom1679.doc.htm.