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The 60th Commission on the Status of Women Recap

April 8, 2016

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The whirlwind of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is done! WILPFers from around the world have returned from New York, and the Commission on 24 March adopted Agreed Conclusions aimed at strengthening women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

WILPF International Delegation Mobilises for Action

WILPF members mobilised, strategised, and demanded action at CSW 60, where over 40 activists and advocates joined together with thousands of other civil society participants at hundreds of events in a two week session around UN headquarters.

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WILPFers Ferial Abu Hamdan (WILPF Lebanon), Stella Boyages (WILPF Australia), and Margrethe Tingstad (WILPF Norway) enjoy an informal discussion. Photo credit: WILPF.

WILPFers came from: Australia, Bosnia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Syria, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Together we called not just for women’s empowerment, but for transformational change that moves from a political economy of war to a political economy of gender justice, demilitarisation, and peace.

Together, we demanded that that international civil society shift the gaze. We have waited long enough for governments to fully implement commitments on gender equality, disarmament, and peace. Now it is now time for the feminist movement to mobilise and take our own action!

Addressing Root Causes of Violence and War

We built on WILPF’s 100th anniversary peace summit in April 2015 where we brought together 1,000 activists from 80 countries to mobilise around Women’s Power to Stop War. We shared our written statement, amplified the voices of grassroots women human rights defenders and peace activists, and mobilised within and beyond the feminist peace movement. As part of this, we worked with MADRE and other partners to organise a successful symposium on developing a roadmap to implement the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 and supported five other events at CSW.

According to WILPF’s formidable Secretary General Madeleine Rees, “We need to challenge militarism as a way of thought.”

According to WILPF PeaceWomen Director Abigail Ruane, who coordinated WILPF’s engagement with CSW 60, “It is time change our story: together we must act in solidarity to put people over profit and those most marginalised at the mainstream.”

WILPF Events Highlight Importance of Moving from Political Economy of War to Political Economy of Gender Justice and Peace

As part of our preparations for the 60th Commission on the Status of Women and as part of our ongoing webinar series by the WILPF Academic Network, WILPF hosted a webinar on 2 March, 2016, on the topic, “Towards the Goal of Social Justice: Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development (CSW 60).” The discussion of this webinar focused on shifting the current economic and security paradigm to promote people over profit for human rights, human security, and sustainable peace.

WILPF events at CSW 60 featured packed rooms, emphasising the importance of the issues we addressed.

At WILPF’s and MADRE’s Symposium, “Implementing the Women, Peace & Security Agenda: A Roadmap for the 1325 Global Study Recommendations” at CUNY Law Centre,” Lydia Alpizar of AWID stated, “Counter-terrorism measures have been utilised to attack civil society and limit freedom of expression in the context of the shrinkage of the world’s democratic space.” According to Sharon Bhagwan Rolls of FemLink Pacific, “Allocation of funding is also necessary to ensure that peace processes consistently include women.”

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Hivin Kaku (Syria) speaking at “The Syrian Regional Crisis: A Women’s Rights Perspective on Humanitarian Action and Protection.” Photo credit: Marina Kumskova.

At WILPF and CARE’s event, “The Syrian Regional Crisis: A women’s rights perspective on humanitarian action and protection,” Asma Khader from the Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI/J) stated, “When it comes to military, everyone wants to get involved but when it’s gender, very few are responding positively and most are ignoring the millions in need.” According to WILPF Crisis Response Programme Manager and Syrian lawyer Laila Alodaat, “Arms disproportionately impact women, and no arms actually help women.”

WILPF also supported events with WILPF-US on the Empowerment of Women and Girls and Sustainable Development and Unpacking the Gender Binary, with Women Cross the DMZ on Women’s Leadership in the Korea Peace Process, and with MenEngage on engaging men and boys for gender justice.

WILPF events emphasised the importance of mobilising across movements to transform systems of militarism from violent masculinities to the military industrial complex. It is critical to strengthen women’s substantive participation and rights, especially for those most at risk, to uphold human rights and promote sustainable development and peace.

CSW Agreed Conclusions

After two weeks of negotiations, the Commission adopted Agreed Conclusions aimed at strengthening women’s empowerment and sustainable development after midnight on the evening of 24 March 2016.

WILPF joins our coalition, the Women’s Major Group, in expressing concern over the Agreed Conclusions.

After two weeks of negotiations, governments should have used this opportunity to come to agreement on ensuring the Agenda 2030/Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are implemented through a women’s human rights framework so as to implement the (1995) Beijing Platform for Action. However, language was weak both on peace as well as on other key feminist issue areas.

The text calls for action to ensure the participation and rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, including for refugee women (para 13, 23 (m, hh)), and affirms the need to engage men and boys to achieve gender equality (22, 23(t)). It also recognises the rights of indigenous women and the contributions of civil society including women human rights defenders and feminist groups, and calls for financing for gender-responsive implementation of the SDGs.

However, issues of peace and conflict were quite weak. Governments also traded off key issues including around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, and failed to move forward progressively on issues of health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the (patriarchal) family. In a climate characterised by reduced financing for the feminist movement, governments also were unable to agree to specific commitments to fund women’s rights and feminist organisations.

As governments move forward in implementing Beijing and the SDGs, it will be critical for them to be held accountable to holistic – rather than watered down – commitments on gender equality and peace.

For the advance unedited version of CSW 60 Agreed Conclusions, please visit PeaceWomen’s CSW 60 page here.

Solidarity for Women’s Human Rights Defenders

In the midst of the strategising and mobilising, WILPF joined hundreds of our sister women human rights defenders in at a rally demanding justice for recently assassinated environmental and indigenous rights activist and women human rights defender, Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in Honduras on March 3, 2016.

Berta’s daughter, Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, joined participants at WILPF and MADRE’s symposium to bring attention to her mother’s legacy. She shared a powerful call for solidarity and collaborative action against militarised and extractivist industries that violate indigenous land rights and women’s human rights. She called for the struggle to continue: “Berta Vive!”

WILPF delegation dinner. Photo credit: WILPF.

WILPF delegation dinner. Photo credit: WILPF.

Stay Tuned for our CSW Report 

In addition to holding our main WILPF events, the PeaceWomen team (Abigail Ruane, Marta Bautista, Marina Kumskova, Joanna Lockspeiser, and Lyna Zaim) monitored over many events related to the Women, Peace and Security agenda during this year’s CSW.

Stay tuned for our CSW 60 report!

For current updates on Women, Peace and Security, subscribe to PeaceWomen’s monthly E-News and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Make CSW count!

Although CSW 60 is done, we need your advocacy more than ever! Please ask your government to take action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a women’s human rights lens and ensure women led civil society’s substantive participation in monitoring and implementation moving forward.

This means implementing commitments so as to recognise the impact of arms on gender based violence, such as addressed by the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty and relevant to SDG target on illicit arms (16.4); reaffirming the need for innovative financing including redirecting military spending to gender equitable development, as agreed in Beijing (Area E); and recognising how violent masculinities are part of a broader political economy of war.

It is time for take action to change our story and move from an economy of militarism and war to an economy of gender justice and peace. Make your voice heard!

Thanks to all of you who participated in and followed along with CSW 60 these past couple of weeks. If you engaged, what did you think? We welcome your thoughts in the comments below!

Participate in the debate! Share your thoughts!

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