- Laurie Richardson
There are many many words here. These are my notes from seven days of NGO Briefings and regional caucus meetings discussing the negotiations on the CSW Agreed Conclusions.
A delegation of 14 FAWCO women joined over 6,000 other NGO representatives for the 60th Commissionon the Status of Women (CSW60) in NY from March 14 - 24, 2016. The Commission was established in 1946 and is "dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women". The annual sessions provide advocates for human rights for women an opportunity to influence the UN agenda. Around 6,000 delegates from the 45 Member States of the Commission, United Nations entities, and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attended this year's annual session with the priority theme "women's empowerment and its link to sustainable development". The session comprised the official ministerial meetings, more than 200 side events hosted by the Member States and UN entities, and around 450 parallel events organized by NGOs.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in September 2015, are the top priority at the UN and are to be achieved by the year 2030. Goal 5 is "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls". The focus of the Goal 5 Targets—e.g., violence against women and girls, trafficking, early marriage, health, discrimination—were reoccurring themes in the events. "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up", the theme of 2016 Women's Day, was also in focus.
The opening speech "CSW60 is the First Test of Our Resolve" by UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka gives a perspective on the 2030 Agenda. The concluding commitment of CSW Member States to the implementation of Agenda 2030 is summarized in a press release from the closing day. (Thanks to Carol Strametz of AWC Hamburg for contributing this introduction.)
Blog posts are by UN Liaison Laurie Richardson (AWA Vienna) unless otherwise noted.
There are many many words here. These are my notes from seven days of NGO Briefings and regional caucus meetings discussing the negotiations on the CSW Agreed Conclusions.
This is what our heads are full of after several days at CSW. Full of ideas, impressions, words: these are my notes from a 90-minute panel discussion on the SDGs.
March 2016 marked five years since peaceful demonstrations and calls for democracy in Syria led to a government crack-down and bloody civil war which continues today. In recent weeks, the negotiated cease fire has made life somewhat easier, and the Syrian people have come out onto the streets again, calling for the same things they called for in demonstrations in March 2011. At CSW60 at the UN in New York, I attended a moving presentation by a group of Syrian women activists seeking peace and democracy, freedom, justice and fundamental human rights. A standing-room only crowd of over 125 people jammed into the basement of the Salvation Army building on East 52nd Street listened intently to these women's stories.
The panel included Mariam Jalabi, a member of the Syrian Women Network and the Syrian Feminist Lobby, and a founding member of the Syrian Non-Violence Movement; Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordinating Committees in Syria, a Director of FREE-Syria, and a member of the Executive Committee of The Day After Project; Lama Kannout, a Syrian political and women’s rights activist, a coordinator of the Syrian Feminist Lobby, and member of the Coordination Committee of the Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy; and Ambassador Mara Marinaki of Greece, the European External Action Service and Principal Advisor on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is leading the Syrian peace negotiations taking place in Geneva, met with the panelists in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, and sent a video message to endorse efforts to involve women in the peace process. The panelists thanked the Swedish Government for their continued support.
This powerful panel opened my eyes, and hearing these women's voices opened my earsand touched my heart, much more than reading articles in the newspaper could ever do. I've tried to capture their words and their passion.
Women need to be given a role in the political and peace processes. Women are resilient, creative and a critical resource for post-war stabilization of the country. Women are actively working to build peace at the local level, but women made up only 1 in 40 peace signatories over the past 25 years. The inclusion of women in the Syrian peace talks will strengthen the political representation and help achieve a broad-based agreement. Women peace activists called for critical mass of 30 percent of women at the negotiating table.
Syrian women are not only victims of the conflict, but are human rights advocates, calling for safe spaces for families, release of detainees, transparent monitoring of ceasefire violations, accountability for war crimes, and access to vital humanitarian services. They insist that the whole range of war crimes being committed on a daily basis should not be left unpunished.
The increasing numbers of refugees fleeing the conflict and the spread of terror and violent extremism has led the international community to take small steps that do not take into account the crux of the conflict and therefore permit the conflict to continue.
Syria is witnessing the greatest humanitarian disaster in the modern era. Syrian people want to live in freedom and build their own democracy. Despite calls to refer the Syria crisis to the International Criminal Court, the international community expresses only “concern.” There can be no liberation of women from the historical injustice without democracy and a fair distribution of power and, therefore, the removal of dictatorship.
Syrian women are twice as likely as men to be killed by shelling and air strikes, and five times as likely to be killed by chemical weapons. Syrian women are more likely to be raped or tortured than graduate from high school. Syrian women increasingly face the hardships of being single heads of households and families. But we are more than victims, we are activists, journalists, lawyers, humanitarians, leaders. Women play a crucial preventive role in families and communities to preempt radicalization and violent extremism. The women on this panel are all working to make sure that women are not bystanders, merely observers to Syria’s peace and transition, and that Syrian women are equally engaged in the political process, because what's best for Syrian women is best for all Syrians.
The Syrian Freedom Charter, developed by the Free Syria Foundation, is based on a survey of over 50,000 Syrians from all over the country, as well as refugees and expatriates. It is a statement of what the Syrian people want for their future. The Freedom Charter is a national unity document and can contribute to the new Syrian Constitution. It can also be an educational tool by which freedom, dignity, and democracy can be further debated in the Syrian national dialogue.
There will no just peace as long as Assad remains in power. Refugees will continue to come to Europe. ISIS will stay in power. The Syrian people will not give up. We will get there no matter how long it takes. During the recent cease-fires, as soon as it was relatively quiet, people were back out on the streets, waving the flag of the democracy movement and calling for freedom, dignity and democracy for all Syrians.
Carol Strametz of AWC Hamburg reported:
I had the pleasure and privilege of attending three days of CSW60, the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), at United Nations Headquarters in New York. FAWCO had a delegation of 14 members, several of whom were present throughout the session.
In preparation for CSW60, FAWCO joined with other members of the NGO CSW in Vienna to sign a statement on the priority theme that was submitted to CSW60. The statement was published on the UN's website as a part of the CSW60 provisional agenda. FAWCO UN Liaison Laurie Richardson co-moderated an NGO Briefing and made a statement on refugees. On the last day of CSW60, FAWCO along with the NGO Committee on Migration in NY, the Organization for Early Childhood Education, UNHCR and other organizations cosponsored an important parallel event: Empowering Syrian Refugee Women and Children for a Better Future: Challenges and Innovative Solutions in Early Childhood Development. The flyer for the event lists the impressive line-up of speakers.
It was exciting, inspiring, impressive and overwhelming to attend CSW60. It was stunning to view the UN Headquarters from 1st Avenue when all the flags are flying and it was breath-taking to be with hundreds of men and women in traditional dress from all over the world. Entering the UN is literally entering another world—it is extraterritorial and under the jurisdiction of the UN not the US. The organization, the level and quality of the event presentations and panel discussions were impeccable. Organizers and participants were engaged, committed and passionate. Many steps to implement the 2030 Agenda are in place and others are being feverishly sought. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka alluded to the fever in her opening speech: "… in your hands is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end poverty and transform gender relations irreversibly for the next generation, making the world a better place for all. Let us seize the day!"
Following are some of the side and parallel events that I was able to attend:
Informal NGO Morning Briefings
Combatting the Trafficking of Women and Girls: What Role Can the Private Sector Play in Addressing and Preventing Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery? (A ministerial-level event organized by Hungary, Liechtenstein, and the United States of America)
"Getting to Equal: The World Bank Group's Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2023" (Carel Grown, Senior Director, Gender Cross-Cutting Solution Area, World Bank Group)
Habitat III Agenda and Gender Equality: Safe Public Spaces for Women and for All (UN Women, UN-Habitat)
Widows and the Sustainable Development Goals: Leaving No One Behind (The Loomba Foundation)
Advancing Women's Empowerment in the OIC Region (Permanent Observer Mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to the United Nations)
Arab Women Refugees: A New Challenge for the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 (Arab Women Organization/ League of Arab States- New York Mission)
Gender-based Violence in the Caribbean: A Cause of Concern and Time for Action (Bahamas)
Human Trafficking in the Tourism Industry (International Tourism Partnership, United Religions Initiative, Florida International University)
Reflections on CSW at the UN in March 2016 by Angela Anderson, AWC Shanghai
I left the Interim Meeting in Seeheim on Monday morning and rode to the Frankfurt airport on the shuttle bus with several conference attendees. Region 11 was well represented on the bus (China, India and Australia). Instead of heading back to Shanghai, I took a direct flight to New York City to join the FAWCO group at the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Last year, former AC Shanghai FAWCO Rep Kathleen Kelly joined the FAWCO delegation at the CSW. She wrote an article for our monthly member magazine describing the experience, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. Recently, I was part of the FAWCO Rebranding task force, which made me more aware of FAWCO’s four pillars and the work of our UN team. When this year’s announcement from the FAWCO UN team went out, I was more informed and ready to sign up for the opportunity to attend CSW. As an added benefit, my daughter Laurel, a college senior, was also able to register to be a part of the FAWCO delegation. She attended both the CSW Youth Forum and the CSW.
FAWCO UN Liaison Laurie Richardson had organized a breakfast meeting at a restaurant near UN headquarters on Tuesday morning. Most of the attendees from the FAWCO delegation were present, and it was great to see some familiar faces and meet the rest of the FAWCO group. I was able to attend sessions during the first week of the event. Those who attended the Interim Meeting and experienced the whirlwind pace had a similar perspective to our UN experience. Sessions and meetings are scheduled from 8:30 am to early evening each day for two weeks. During any given time slot, several different meetings were scheduled, either at the UN Headquarters or a nearby venue. Sometimes it was difficult to choose which meeting was most interesting or informative. We did get a chance to be tourists when Laurel and I took part of Thursday morning off to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
A highlight of the week for me was on Tuesday, March 17th when I was able to attend an event in the Trusteeship Chamber at UN Headquarters. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was a speaker at the event, which focused on the Every Woman, Every Child movement, which he launched in 2010.
Another unexpected opportunity came on Friday, when staff at the US Mission to the UN found a few extra seats and allowed us to attend a session called Women’s Voices from North Korea: Repression and Resilience. Samantha Power, US Rep to the UN and other representatives from Korea, Japan, Australia and the UK had organized a panel of four women from North Korea. The women told stories of imprisonment, torture, famine, abuse, and survival. Those who escape North Korea are vulnerable to being trafficked and are routinely subjected to violence. Each woman mentioned the issues of escaping through China and their fear of authorities who might forcibly return them to North Korea. As a resident of China, I was especially interested to learn more about the human rights and refugee law violations occurring with respect to the treatment of NK refugees.
Each day we attended several sessions on a variety of topics such as Women Empowerment and Sustainable Development, Violence Against Women and Girls, Women in Power and Decision Making, Vulnerability of Widows and Human Trafficking. I took lots of notes and gathered flyers and brochures for future reading. In a session on Gender Expertise, I noted an introduction to the term “inclusion nudges.” Since then, I’ve done additional research and intend to put to the concept use in both ACS board meetings and in the work environment.
Thanks to the FAWCO UN team for the opportunity to attend CSW. I now have a better understanding of their work at UN Headquarters and Missions. They are dedicated volunteers and truly exemplify both interpretations of “inspiring women worldwide.”
UN CSW: Rozanne VanRie (AWC Antwerp)
After a week long stint at the two week long UN Commission on the Status of Women this past March,, we were all asked to write a report about our experience in order to share with our colleagues at FAWCO.
So, after a my trans-Atlantic trip home to Belgium, I took a long hot shower, had a bowl of homemade soup that my husband made for me,then jumped into bed for a nice long nap before the real business of life began again,
However as I tried to put into clear concise words what the conference was about, what it meant to me, what it might mean for the 'status of women' over the next years, and more importantly how can I impart this information to our members so that they will listen and possibly do something with the information, I found that this wasn't an easy task. The words from a song from the 'Sound of Music' come to mind: 'how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?'....almost impossible.
There were hundreds of seminars and meetings to choose from. I did not know where to start, but it was soon evident that whatever session I chose, I would hear a lingering message! The rights of women and children worldwide are being violated! The mesmerizing words from Ambassadors, law enforcement agents, heads of states,country liaisons, NGO liaisons, program directors, film directors, journalists and the victims and perpetrators of crimes themselves, were heard !
Can you imagine listening to the words of a man who was a trafficker of women as he explained the cycle of his involvement and what he now recognizes as the heinous crimes that he committed! He said that his jail sentence was not long enough.
A very brief history: In 2015, countries from around the globe agreed on the need for a comprehensive financing for development; adopted a new sustainable development agenda; and charted a universal and legally binding global agreement on climate change. See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/post-2015 The outcome document “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was formally adopted by world leaders.
Ms Julie Ward, a UK Member of Parliament and the Co-Founder of the European Childrens Rights Committee spoke and, get this, she doesn't listen to the lobbyists!! quite a different story from many of our USA counterparts ! BUT she does listen to the NGOs!! She listens to US! She wants people to 'BOTHER HER!!' She is trying to change the EU laws. She takes best practices from other countries and wants volunteers to help guide her with information and assistance.
Our own Laurie Richardson, with collaborated words from Erica Higbie and My-Linh Kunst, was a speaker at a United Nations session and Jane Politi, AWC Rome member helped organize a seminar that was standing room only. What I garnered from these ladies was a tremendous amount of information on the workings of the UN in this capacity of this conference on women and girls!
At the last session I attended, I found myself listening to the US Ambassador to the UN, The Japanese Ambassador and the South Korean Ambassador! However, for me, the highlight was listening to four women from early 20s to mid 80s in age who were victims of human rights violations in North Korea. They had stories to tell that were so horrific, including one whose young son was sold into slavery for the price of a meal!! These women had stories that created the continued need to move forward on Women's Rights in my mind!
The amount of information to be had at a conference like this is so copious, so daunting that it was hard for me to collate it all to be able to succinctly and precisely be able to tell you what it was that you missed by not attending this session. but the big question for me would be to say: SO WHAT? What is the big deal about all this? NOW WHAT?? What happens next? WHY is this all so important? Well, for me, the answer seems to be simple...In the words of Hilary Clinton: 'Women's rights are Human rights'
WHY should we care? Well, should the simple geography of where we were born or to whom we were born to, lessen our responsibilities as citizens of the World?
Do we not have a responsibility to assist, in some way, the plight of women?
I challenge you, I challenge myself, to learn more, to understand better, to become more informed through listening, reading, asking questions, attending conferences, like the one in October with Mary Adams in The Hague.
What we do with this information? I hope that doing some one thing with one piece of information at a time can truly make a difference!
On March 24, the final day of CSW60, the NGO Committee on Migration in NY, along with the Organization for Early Childhood Education, UNHCR, FAWCO and other organizations co-sponsored an important event: Empowering Syrian Refugee Women and Children for a Better Future: Challenges and Innovative Solutions in Early Childhood Development. The flyer for the event lists the impressive line-up of speakers. Over 70 people attended the event, including six FAWCO women. Thanks to Jane McCall Politi, FAWCO UN Rep in NY and member of the NGO Committee on Migration, for getting FAWCO involved in these awareness-raising efforts. You can download a report on the event here.
I found a quiet place where I can take a breath, reflect and write about CSW60, so I can share my thoughts and experiences. I had the East Lounge to myself until about 11 AM, when it began to fill up with delegates and NGO reps eagerly talking and networking. Here is a photo of the view from my workspace, looking out across the East River. Interesting to watch the traffic on the river as I ponder the day's events.
Monday March 21
Every morning at the 8.30 AM NGO Briefing, we hear updates on the negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions by the CSW delegations. On Monday March 21, as we started Week 2 of CSW, the third revised draft had been disseminated, and the lead facilitator of the negotiations talked about their progress and sticking points. Substantive improvements were being made, as the negotiators from the government delegations worked into the wee hours on Sunday morning. He was working to incorporate the issues brought up by the NGO community in the last week. Discussions came up as points were made by the NGO Reps in the audience, including adding girls more specifically to the text, and more details on financing mechanisms. There was agreement on the urgency of ratifying CEDAW, and a new stronger encompassing paragraph on education. The hope is for an implementation oriented outcome and agreed conclusions based on and progressing from the Member States adoption of the Global Goals, 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals all synonyms for the UN sustainable development agenda, the successor to the MDGs, adopted in September 2015.
Later on March 21, NGO representatives and activists met at the North America and European Caucus to discuss the negotiations. Since the negotiators work in closed sessions, we learn about their progress or lack of it either from NGO reps who are members of their national delegations and therefore inside, or from friends in the delegations who share information. Regional caucuses are a forum for comparing notes, sharing views, passing along information, and planning advocacy. One of the leaders of the caucus is a Canadian lawyer who gives sharp eyed insights into the use of language which allows ambiguity and provides escape clauses in agreed conclusions. Words like relevant who defines what is relevant, to whom? If word are subject to interpretation, their meaning can be modified, and the text is not precise and focused, therefore invalid as a basis for holding governments accountable. Other escape wording includes subject to national priorities, bearing in mind national or cultural contexts, and similar constructions. It is interesting once you start to look for this kind of language,how often you notice it, and realize how these linguistic loopholes, negotiating legerdemain, work.
One solution is to advocate for the inclusion of the language in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms, with detailed reference to specific text in international agreements governments have signed on to in the past. For example, there is strong agreed language in the Beijing Platform for Action, 1995.
The objective of the Platform for Action, which is in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, is the empowerment of all women. The full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women is essential for the empowerment of women. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The implementation of this Platform, including through national laws and the formulation of strategies, policies, programmes and development priorities, is the sovereign responsibility of each State, in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the significance of and full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of individuals and their communities should contribute to the full enjoyment by women of their human rights in order to achieve equality, development and peace.
One of the important roles of civil society is to remind states about the multilateral agreements they have made, and hold them accountable.
Tuesday March 22
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka attended the NGO Briefing at CSW this morning. She wanted to give us her impressions of the CSW work to date, and to hear from us about our priorities and concerns.It was a great honor to be invited to speak at this session. FAWCOs statement on protection of women and children refugees human rights follows.
Good morning. My name is Laurie Richardson, I am the UN Liaison for FAWCO, a global women’s organization with local chapters in 35 countries, and I represent the NGO CSW in Vienna. We strongly support the language in the draft Agreed Conclusions of CSW60 on the rights and needs of women and girls affected and displaced by humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters, and armed conflicts. Many of our members are working with refugees fleeing armed conflict, and are acutely aware of the full range of human rights challenges confronting displaced women and children. In a world where 1 in 122 people are currently displaced, we call upon UN Women to take a strong position to ensure that the human rights of these particularly vulnerable women and children are protected, and to include a gender perspective in the deliberations of the World Humanitarian Summit. Thank you.
Wednesday March 16
FAWCO UN Liaison Laurie Richardson co moderated today's NGO Briefing at CSW 60, as a member of the NGO CSW in Vienna Executive Committee. Her co moderator was from the NGO CSW in Geneva. Click here to see the video in full size.
A delegation of 14 FAWCO women attended CSW 60 at UN Headquarters in New York, March 14 to 24, 2016. Your voice at the UN, your concerns raised with the UN NGO community. Let us know what issues are important to you.