Tag Archives: UN CSW

Outcome of the 57th UNCSW

8 Apr

The final agreed conclusions of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women are now available on the UNCSW website here. This document has made a journey from eight pages to 31, back down to a final 16, stating what actions governments need to take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women (including direct input from Mothers’ Union – read right to the end to discover what!).  Six thousand women were present to influence this process in New York, and many more beforehand back in their own countries. Intergovernmental negotiations took place behind closed doors but governments often found ways to helpfully leak the developing text of the agreed conclusions to NGOs to aid them in their lobbying.

By the end, most governments were happy with the outcome, even just to have reached final agreements – the last time the priority theme was violence against women there had been no agreed conclusions at the end, the second time only in its 57 year history (the only other occasion being last year). Negotiations are always a battle between weakening gender equality (yes, really), protecting existing standards, and progressing women’s empowerment even further.  Whilst a great deal of compromise was involved there were still a few countries who expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. The Holy See (not technically a UN member state but has the right to ‘observer status’ and therefore input) spent ten minutes after the adoption of the agreed conclusions making a speech against the document – no one really listened and eventually the chair asked them to kindly desist.

So what’s in the agreed conclusions? Not least, a paragraph from Mothers’ Union!

The first section reaffirms existing international agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a key milestone in international agreements on gender) and raises general observations. The second section is operational – that is, specific guidelines for what governments should be doing – and is organised into four categories: 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 multisectoral services, programmes and responses to violence against women and girls; and improving the evidence base. Within each category are a number of specific recommendations and it is often the minutia of the language used that NGOs lobby on.

It is not easy to establish where an individual organisation can take credit for influencing an outcome, as there are so many voices calling for the same things. However, Mothers’ Union can claim full credit for the introduction of one particular paragraph. We gave suggested text to the UK Government ahead of CSW, which made its way word for word into the second draft of the agreed conclusions as:

“Support the development of rehabilitative services for perpetrators of violence against women and girls to transform attitudes and behaviours and reduce likelihood of reoffending”.

Over the two weeks of the CSW this paragraph was extended but made its way, uncontroversially, into the final document as:

 “Create, develop and implement a set of policies, and support the establishment of rehabilitative services, to encourage and bring changes in the attitudes and behaviours of perpetrators of violence against women and girls, and to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, including in cases of domestic violence, rape and harassment, as well as monitor and assess their impact and effect”. (Section C, point ggg, page 14)

 For me, this is what attending the CSW is all about – influencing an international agreement that, if implemented, should help to improve life for women and girls.

Rachel with Sister Lynda Dearlove of Women at the Well, at the adoption of the agreed conclusions

Rachel with Sister Lynda Dearlove of Women at the Well, at the adoption of the agreed conclusions

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Friday 15th March: Agreed agreed conclusions!

16 Mar

Newsflash update – the agreed conclusions were finalised and agreed at 7.50pm this evening after tense negotiations up to the end! Mothers’  Union was there up until the end to witness the final cheer – more to follow soon on the details.

Thursday 15th March: Side event

15 Mar

 Today we hosted our side event with Restored, entitled ‘A relationship based approach to preventing and ending violence against women and girls’, which was well attended by Mothers’ Union members and Anglicans. We showed the video of Jeanette that I recorded last week, in which she highlighted how violence affects women and girls in Papua New Guinea and what Mothers’ Union is doing to address it. Members work with families to develop healthy and respectful attitudes in children in order to prevent acceptance of gender based violence (GBV). Members raise awareness of GBV in villages, using the local language, and encourage women to break the silence on violence; and specialists are used to lead workshops and train Mothers’ Union and Church leaders on GBV. Members also work with other mainline churches and NGOs to campaign and lobby government on ending GBV.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mandy Marshall then spoke about the work of Restored, which is working to create a global Christian alliance to end violence against women and girls, and a men’s movement within it. She highlighted how church and culture can institutionalise and excuse violence in different ways, but that where culture kills, culture has to change; and that scripture can never be used to justify violence.

We were delighted to learn, during the feedback session, that the view of Mothers’ Union held by one gentleman in the audience had been transformed (in a positive way) as he learned about our work to end GBV.

MU and Restored side eventFollowing the side event, I went through the next version of the agreed conclusions and passed on comments to the UK negotiator this evening. At this point, generally, there are fewer dramatic changes to the text and the work is more around amending and bringing together paragraphs. There was some new language acknowledging violence from former partners, which is incredibly important to acknowledge. We are only too familiar with stories of women being murdered by their former husbands and partners.

I rounded the day off by starting the process of cramming my possessions back into my suitcase.

Tuesday 12th March: Lobbying the EU

15 Mar

Today the EU negotiators held a briefing with European NGOs, to update us on progress of the agreed conclusions and to receive our input. Again, I highlighted the importance of the role of the family in nurturing healthy attitudes to prevent violence against women and girls, and suggested how the paragraph relating to the family could be made more acceptable to those opposing its inclusion, which the key negotiator said they would take into account. On the whole, discussions are progressing and those paragraphs on which there is greater consensus are being agreed on first.

Information from other sources also highlighted the real concern over efforts to retain paragraphs about national sovereignty over agreed conclusions. Certain countries don’t want to be bound by all of the agreed conclusions but instead only those that they choose – any reference to this would in effect make the agreed conclusions pointless, as governments should be binding themselves to all of these agreements that they have reached by consensus.

I also received an invitation, via email from the Government Equalities Office, to attend a roundtable follow up meeting next week with Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Millar. This will provide an important opportunity to feedback from CSW, highlight key areas of concern and raise the question of how the UK Government might implement the agreed conclusions.

Monday 11th March: The next round

13 Mar

Early this morning an email arrived with the next version of the agreed conclusions. I was pleased to see that paragraphs we had a particular interest in had remained included, such as the rehabilitation of perpetrators of violence and the need for the media to consider its portrayal of  and reporting on violence against women and girls.

There was also a new paragraph on the role of the family in preventing discrimination and violence against women and girls. This was great to see but many NGOs are nervous about the inclusion of references to strengthening the role of the family, as in some cultures the family is used as a vehicle of control of women and girls. However,  it is important to recognise the role of parents and carers in shaping the attitudes of children, as they do not learn by osmosis or in isolation; and with a small amendment, the paragraph was more acceptable to some of the other NGOs. I passed on this, along with other recommendations, to the UK Government delegation.

The new version of the agreed conclusions had also been tidied up a lot by the facilitator and there is greater optimism that there will be a final outcome document this year.

Wednesday 6th March: Winds of change

7 Mar

This morning I opened my curtains to a grey and windy morning. I barely survived being taken by the wind in the manner of the prospective nannies in Mary Poppins, on my way to the UK NGO meeting.  Winds today gusted up to 35mph.

I spent some time today chasing my tail, as side events I wanted to attend were not where they were supposed to be. So I used a couple of spare hours to take advantage of the wonders of remote email access to deal with the work that continues in the UK.

The side event that did remain in its rightful place was one hosted by the UK Government. In front of a packed Lynne Featherstone @ CSWaudience, Lynne Featherstone MP outlined some research from England and Wales – 7% of women in England and Wales have reported some form of sexual violence, increasing to 14% for younger women and girls. The UK Government’s approach to dealing with VAWG is prevention, provision of services, partnership working and bringing perpetrators to justice. Ms Featherstone highlighted UK initiatives such as extending the definition of domestic abuse to include 16 and 17 year olds, work on tackling the sexualisation of young people (for example through the Bailey Review), the Body Campaign and the recent teenage rape prevention adverts on TV – featured in the UK’s Action Plan to tackle VAWG.

Carlene Firmin, from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, talked about the importance of tackling violence against girls, including gang violence. Within gang culture, boys are sometimes drawn in and groomed by men to sexually assault girls before passing the on to men to abuse.

I later bumped into Jeanette. She has been doing an excellent job and has tracked down the Papua New Guinea delegation to talk to and hand them Mothers’ Union’s statement (position paper) – they apparently have seldom been approached at CSW by NGOs from PNG. She is also aiming to talk to the delegation from the Solomon Islands.

At the evening meeting with the UK Government delegation, we were briefed on the UK’s work on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Prime Minster David Cameron is co-chair of the High Level Panel which was set up to make recommendations on the vision for and shape of the development agenda following the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the Panel’s final report will be presented to the UN Secretary General in May 2013.

Following the meeting, a group of us headed to a nearby diner for dinner and to discuss progress of the agreed conclusions and identify areas we need to push. Formal discussions known as informals (contradictory?!) begin tomorrow, so we’re unlikely to get any text developments until the weekend or beginning of next week.

I rounded off the evening with a few episodes of Big Bang Theory, hot chocolate and Oreos.

Tuesday 5th March: Progress on agreed conclusions and EU briefing

6 Mar

This morning I had a breakfast meeting, without the breakfast, to discuss the progress of the agreed conclusions. Going through the updated draft I was pleased to see an additional paragraph on the rehabilitation of perpetrators to prevent reoffending, similar to one that Mothers’ Union had put forward to the UK Government a couple of weeks ago. I’m also reinforcing other recommendations we had made on tackling the sexualisation and stereotyping of women and girls in the media, and abuse through global communications networks; and on ensuring girls’ and womens’ safety in non-formal education settings, as well as in schools. All of Mothers’ Union’s recommendations to the CSW are available in our statement here.

After the morning UK NGO briefing, I went through the agreed conclusions, inserting our recommendations and sent them off to the UK officials.

I then headed down to the European Union’s offices for a briefing. Whilst the EU has agreed its position on the agreed conclusions, they are still keen for NGO input – so I offered Mothers’ Union’s concerns. Whist the EU negotiator agreed that the issues of safety in educational establishments and the rehabilitation of perpetrators was important, she argued that references to the media need to be balanced with ensuring freedom of speech and freedom of the press. This made me ponder why the media should be let off the hook from perpetuating the sexualisation of women and other attitudes that disempower women, when others are not; however in international politics there is need for caution in placing boundaries around the media given that some states actively suppress and control all forms of media .

Realising I hadn’t eaten, I stopped off for a sandwich and humongous peanut butter and chocolate muffin, before going to a side event on the economics of domestic abuse by The Haven Wolverhampton. They run a number of accommodations and support services for survivors of domestic violence and are an impressive, professional organisation. The cost of each domestic violence homicide is £1million and there has been a 17% increase in reported domestic violence since the start of the current recession.

Finally, I headed to the UK Mission to the UN for our evening briefing. Negotiations on the agreed conclusions will start on Thursday, and whilst work has started earlier this year than in previous years, it is likely that discussions will be long and passionate (read fraught).

I rounded off my day with a quick bowl of Chinese soup, with Mandy from Restored, a phone call to my husband and the other half of my muffin, which I couldn’t possibly finish earlier.

Muffin