Report on the Fifty-Seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women by Lilla Osztrovszk
Report on the Fifty-Seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women
(March 4-15, 2013 New York, USA)
First of all, I would like to thank Canadian Voice of Women for Peace for giving me the opportunity to attend the Fifty-Seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women as an international member of the organization. The conference was very interesting and gave me the opportunity to learn about many issues regarding Women’s Rights; Women, Peace and Security, and other women’s issues. As an international member of the Voice of Women, it was a very enriching experience for me to attend this conference. It broadened my view of Women’s Rights issues and gave me the opportunity to network and meet wonderful women from around the world.
I will describe briefly below the different aspects discussed in the conference.
The conference was very well attended. Many Women’s Rights representatives of governments and NGOs were present from all over the world.
The Commission on the Status of Women took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from March 4-15, 2013. Representatives from Member States, UN entities, and NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from all over the world attended the Conference. The two-week session included a high-level round table, interactive dialogues and panels, and side events.
In 2013 the priority theme was “Elimination and Prevention of all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.” The emerging issue was “Key Gender Equality Issues to be Reflected in the post-2015 Development Framework.” The preview on the priority theme of 2014 was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.”
Preparation for the conference
A preparatory expert panel on the priority theme was held during the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on February 29, 2012. Later the UN Women organized an online discussion on the priority theme from July 23 -August 3, 2012. As part of the preparation for the 57th session of CSW the UN Women, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), convened an Expert Group Meeting on Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls, on September 17–20, 2012, in Bangkok, Thailand. Furthermore, UN Women convened a forum to engage a range of stakeholders in the preparations for the upcoming CSW at United Nations Headquarters in New York on December 13-14 2012.
From January 14-16, 2013, UN Women, in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), convened a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and senior government officials from Africa attended the meeting and did preparations for the CSW 57 on the priority theme “Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls.” On February 11, 2013, UN Women in collaboration with the Government of El Salvador convened a consultation in San Salvador prior to CSW 57. Ministers and other high level decision-makers responsible for the promotion of the empowerment of women in Latin America and the Caribbean adopted a Declaration on Eliminating and Preventing all Forms of Violence against Women and Girls.
During the conference, outside the formal program of the session, side events or/and activities were organized by member states, NGO’s, and UN entities, where they could address and discuss themes of the conference or other Women’s Rights issues.
Most of the events focused on individual topics such as domestic violence, violence against women and girls, trafficking women, violence against women in rural area, and men’s participation in combating violence against women.
The events included: Engendering Bottom-up Reform; Grassroots Women’s Tool for Securing Access to Justice organized by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Huairou Commission; Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda: Experiences from Latin America organized by Chile, Global Network of Women Peace builders; Using new technology and social media to address violence against women and girls organized by Australia; Prevention of gender-based violence through education and sport organized by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Center for Research on Women; Women’s Empowerment in South Sudan: A look at gender-responsive peacekeeping in practice organized by Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD), WITNESS, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights and the United Nations Peacekeeping; The Socio-Economic Cost of Violence Against Women in Africa organized by Germany and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); A Girl’s Right to Learn Without Fear: Working to End Gender Based Violence at School organized by UN Women; Critical Issues on Violence against Women and Girl Children: Cultural and Social Transformations organized by Thailand; From prevention to response- Engaging men and boys in the elimination of violence against women and girls Organized by Sweden, Nordic Missions to the UN; UN Women’s Knowledge Gateway on Women’s Economic Empowerment organized by UN Women.
The Parallel Events provided Women’s Rights advocates the opportunity to network and share experiences about this year’s priority theme, “Elimination and Prevention of all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls” and the review theme of “The Equal Sharing of Responsibilities between Women and Men, Including Caregiving in the Context of HIV/AIDS,” as well as other Women’s Rights issues.
Unfortunately I could not attend the event of Confronting Military Sexual Violence; Challenging Militarized Security organized by VOW on March 4, 2013 (as I arrived a day later). During the Conference I received positive feedback on this event.
Many attendees expressed appreciation of this event because otherwise the Conference has not put emphasis between violence against women and war.
At the conclusion of each session, the CSW releases an Outcome Document, which is an annual report on the agreed upon conclusions. That Document discusses existing challenges, progress, and recommendations for governments, international bodies, and civil society. The 2013 conclusions were all focused on the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. Representatives of NGO’s were in New York to work towards obtaining mutually acceptable conclusions, through advocacy actions, side-events and networking activities.
In 2012, the Commission on the Status of Women failed to adopt any agreed upon conclusions, which was a great disappointment to many representatives and millions of women all around the world.
Therefore to reach an agreement this year was even more important, and had a symbolic meaning as well. While there were rumors circulating that such conclusions would not reached this year either, the Commission on the Status of Women did in fact adopt agreed conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls on March 15, 2013.
The Outcome Document reaffirms previous international agreements on Women’s Rights, such as those made in Cairo in 1994, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Optional Protocols. The Document reaffirms the international commitments made at relevant United Nations summits and conferences in the area of gender equality and the empowerment of women, including the Program of Action at the International Conference on Population and Development and the key actions for its further implementation.
The Outcome Document focuses on prevention, including through awareness-raising, and addressing gender inequalities in the political, economic and social spheres.
In the Document “violence against women and girls is characterized by the use and abuse of power and control in public and private spheres, and is intrinsically linked with gender stereotypes that underlie and perpetuate such violence, as well as other factors that can increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to such violence.” In the Document, the Commission stresses that “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. The Commission also notes the economic and social harm caused by such violence. The Commission strongly condemns all forms of violence against women and girls. The Commission urges States to strongly condemn violence against women and girls committed in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and recognizes that sexual and gender-based violence affects victims and survivors, families, communities and societies, and calls for effective measures of accountability and redress as well as effective remedies. The Commission urges States to strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom to justify it.
The document highlights the importance of strengthening implementation of legal and policy frameworks and accountability, addressing structural and underlying causes and risk factors so as to prevent violence against women and girls, strengthening multispectral services, programs and responses to violence against women and girls, improving the evidence-base.
It draws attention to the need for services to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health. Punishment of perpetrators is also mentioned in the document. The Outcome Document also address trafficking in persons.
UN Women’s executive director, Michelle Bachelet, said she was “particularly heartened” that an agreement was reached this year. Michelle Bachelet also said that we must do more!
After the conclusion of the CSW, Bachelet announced her resignation as head of UN Women.
 The Commission consists of one representative from each of the 45 Member States elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: eleven from Asia; thirteen members from Africa; nine from Latin America and Caribbean; eight from Western Europe and other States and four from Eastern Europe.
 The Commission meets annually for a period of ten working days at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Bureau of the Commission plays a very important role in preparation and in making sure that the annual sessions of the Commission are successful.
The Bureau for the 56th and 57th sessions comprised the following members:
- H.E. Ms. Marjon V. Kamara (Liberia) of the African States Group, Chair
- Ms. Ana Marie Hernando (Philippines) of the Asia-Pacific States Group, Vice-Chair
- Ms. Irina Velichko (Belarus) of the Eastern European States Group, Vice-Chair
- H.E. Mr. Carlos Garcia Gonzalez (El Salvador) of the Latin American and Caribbean States Group, Vice-Chair
- Mr. Filippo Cinti (Italy), Western European and other States Group, Vice-Chair