Archive | March, 2014
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Side negotiations outside the conference room

21 Mar

Side negotiations outside the conference room

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Friday 21st March: The Waiting Game

21 Mar

At this point in negotiations in 2013, we had just been let into the conference hall to hear governments finalise the agreed conclusions. This year, however, I am sitting on the floor in the lounge area, wondering what the outcome will be. The most contentious issues, including sexual and reproductive rights, the family (on which I shall write about in more detail later) and national sovereignty have been left to the end and now negotiators are under pressure to reach compromise agreements. Maybe by the time I’ve finished writing this there will be some news…

Earlier on today I attended the final Eucharist with my fellow Anglicans. Alice Medcof, a Mothers’ Union member from Canada presided, and Imaculee Nyiransengimana, our Community Development Coordinator from Rwanda gave the sermon…

Our UK negotiator has just informed us that unfortunately things are not progressing well. After side negotiations within country blocs, certain groups are putting forward language that would weaken the agreements. The CSW Chair also popped out and he stopped to chat to us, explaining how long winded some of interventions were, but also how important it was to stop and consider issues of discrimination, no matter how small a minority of people it affected.

It’s just a matter of waiting now.

Thursday 20th March 2014: *Newsflash*

20 Mar

The agreed conclusions have been going rather slowly, despite the facilitator’s efforts to keep the pace up and be nearly done by lunchtime today. Yesterday evening we met with our negotiator from the Government Equalities Office and he did not have much of an update, other than everyone wants their two cents’ worth of input; and that posturing and attempted compromise continues.

This evening I have just received the latest version and a few more paragraphs have been agreed completely, with a few more nearly agreed. Of the ones nearly agreed, a few bits of our wording relating to women’s inheritance rights and equal access to justice have remained in. One paragraph that has been agreed addresses internet safety, although we can’t claim credit for that one!

I suspect the session will continue well into the night with interns being sent off to buy pizza and strongly caffeinated fizzy drinks. I, meanwhile, have enjoyed a session with the Anglican delegation (including our lovely Mothers’ Union members), reflecting on the past two weeks, and am now scoffing cough sweets to battle the dry tickle in my throat.

More to follow; until then, happy first day of spring to you all.

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Maria Miller and Sir Mark Lyall Grant welcoming NGOs to CSW

20 Mar

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Wednesday 12th March: Keep on agitating!

20 Mar

On Wednesday I attended a meet and greet with Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Quite a novelty meeting a woman bishop! With great warmth and welcome, she encouraged us to keep agitating to seek change in the world. During the same session, Mugisa Isingoma talked about her role as Mothers’ Union President for Congo and the need for her and other leaders to be role models to women. She also talked about her work with United Women for Peace and Social Inclusion, which supports women to become self-sufficient, particularly those who have survived rape and domestic violence. She highlighted how the women she works with do not want to keep telling their story but rather look to the future to see what they can achieve.

Afterwards, I attended an event on engaging faith communities to address sexual and gender-based violence, held by Episcopal Relief and Development and chaired by Terrie Robinson, Women’s Desk Officer with the Anglican Communion. She highlighted how people often look to the church for support and encouragement, yet how the church has often remained silent on the issue of domestic and gender-based violence. Rev Ann Marie Hunter of Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership spoke about how faith can be used as a weapon of abuse, as well as being a source of support and healing; and how faith communities need to repent and speak out against violence, as well as offering support to survivors. Other panelists spoke about the importance of faith leaders being educated about gender-based violence and becoming advocates for transformation.

At the end of the day I attended a reception hosted by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative, UK Mission to the UN New York. I was introduced to Maria Miller, Minister for Women and Equalities, and spoke to her about Mothers’ Union’s perspective on this year’s CSW, including the discussions Rhoda and I had had about girls missing school each month. I also chatted to Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Women and Equalities Minster, who told me her concerns about the sexualisation of young girls and boys, including their use of internet pornography and self-generated content such as sexting. She was aware of our Bye Buy Childhood campaign and the Bailey Review, having met with her shortly before coming out to CSW.

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UK Government presentation at UNCSW

14 Mar

UK Government presentation ot UNCSW

Lynne Featherstone MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, presents the UK Government’s statement

Tuesday 11th March: Next draft of the agreed conclusions

14 Mar

Someone was obviously working hard in the wee hours, as early Tuesday morning the revised draft (now the third version) of the agreed conclusions made its way into my email inbox. For the first time, certainly since I’ve attended CSW, the agreed conclusions are being made available freely to all. No longer do we have to rely on helpful leaks and subterfuge, which makes the process much easier (if not a little less exhilarating!).

The new draft is down to 30 or so pages, and for the first time there is no indication on which countries or groups of countries have made which amendments. An interesting piece of psychology, perhaps, to persuade NGOs to read through the amendments without prejudice based on who has written them.

Some of our amendments that made it into the compilation draft remain in this draft, although some suggestions have not been included. I beavered away making further amendments and whizzed them over to the UK negotiators and other contacts. Despite being in New York, I think I’ve had better laptop performance and internet connection in South Sudan, so this took up a fair amount of time.

Later, I found a comfy spot in a shiny new lounge in the UN building overlooking the river to do some more work and managed to ‘overhear’ other government delegates discussing their amendments to the agreed conclusions. They were in favour of a paragraph that is not popular with more progressive states and were collaborating on making it more acceptable. Referring to women as a ‘reproductive unit’ is perhaps not the most empowering language!

The UK Government also gave its statement to the CSW, presented by Lynne Featherstone MP. She highlighted the Government’s commitment to giving 0.7% Gross National Income in overseas development assistance and announced that soon all those applying for DFID funding for aid and development will need to prove that they are also taking into account gender issues in what the money will be spent on.

And the evening briefing proved a rich source of information again, this time about progress on the post-2015 development agenda. Whilst there is a lot of agreement on the very detailed High Level Panel report, it is by no means set in stone yet; so there is still the opportunity to lobby on ensuring the next set of goals truly seek to further gender equality.