Access Denied: a View of the CSW from the Outside

The 57th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – boasting the largest participation of any event at UN Headquarters

This week, thousands of women, plus a few men, from all over the world and of all ages are gathered at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. For two weeks governments are set to negotiate a draft document dealing with the status of women worldwide, this year with a specific focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

The process started with a ‘zero-draft’ outcome document of 7 pages, and so far close to 30 pages of proposed changes have been developed. Negotiations on this draft are actually starting today, Thursday March 7th, one day before International Women’s Day.

It is interesting to experience that at such a well-attended event, access to the real negotiations feels like a wild adventure – to put it in sort of a positive note. Many of the registered participants have come from countries very far away, enduring long hours of travel with the hopes that at least their own voices could be taken into consideration. I, myself, came with a group of 2 other women from Guatemala and Kazakhstan, whose strong testimonies on coal mining and uranium mining in their own countries depict how violations of human rights continue to happen no matter what the official story of the ‘happenings’ are or would be.

Unfortunately, this CSW process makes it very difficult (if not impossible) for these women to get their concerns addressed in terms of getting the ‘right’ text inserted into the document negotiated, as access for NGOs to the meetings is made quite difficult. In fact, official negotiations are absolutely closed to NGOs, that is, civil society, you and me.

Our work is reliant on briefings that come from those who move closer to the government circles and can get the inside information. Other intergovernmental processes are far more open. Civil society participation and access to CSW is in such a state a state of neglect –civil society events are almost never attended by government delegates and government events are difficult to gain access to– that it clearly portrays what the status of women in the world is.

To add to that, in the document itself, women’s rights are still being negotiated…yes, you heard right, in a process that is at its 57th session and that is centered on examining gender issues. And a good deal of this is thanks to the Holy See, the Government of Vatican City where women make up less than 10% of the ‘population’, who have been granted the right to decide the fate of women’s rights worldwide. Other countries siding with the Holy See include the Russian Federation, Iran, Syria, Sudan and CARICOM (the regional block of Caribbean countries) thus making sure that policies empowering women are hindered; but is this logical after all the increasing forms of violence on women and girls we see day by day?

This makes me come to the conclusion that Member State representatives definitely ignore the realities on the ground, and that restricting civil society from participating is only contributing to further violence against women, to growing inequalities including increasing poverty worldwide and that we need to keep on working even harder in order to build a better world. A good opportunity for this was offered with the organization of a side event on ‘Women Confronting Sustainable Development’, where many women (mostly from NGOs) gathered together and listened to local experiences from Latin America, Asia & the Pacific bringing out a clear message about environmental degradation contributing to violence and discrimination against women. In the end, a small victory was achieved by being able to get local voices out with the hope of reaching some strayed decision-maker.

For further information on the side event please see: http://www.wedo.org/news/women-at-csw57-confronting-unsustainable-development

Isis Alvarez, Global Forest Coalition http://globalforestcoalition.org/

isis.alvarez@globalforestcoalition.org

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