By Jane Bailey and Sasha Langdon
eQ co-leader Jane Bailey, eQ researcher Suzie Dunn, Interim CEO of eQ partner YWCA Canada Raine Liliefeldt, and Rhiannon Wong of Women’s Shelters Canada and BC Society of Transition Houses were all members of the Canadian Delegation at the 67th UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) held in New York City from 6-17 March 2023. This year’s priority theme focused on “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
Jane’s UNCSW journey began with research conducted by eQ student researcher Sasha Langdon, which contextualized this year’s event within the Commission’s history. This first instalment in a multi-part eQ blog series shares some of that history. Future instalments will focus on insights gained from attending UNCSW – an event that Raine aptly described as the “feminist Olympics”!
Originally a sub-commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CSW gained full commission status in 1946. The CSW prepares recommendations and reports on promoting women’s rights in political, social, and educational fields, but also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent women’s rights problems requiring immediate attention. The CSW’s purpose is to promote women’s rights and to shape global standards on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The CSW’s first meeting was at Lake Success in New York in 1947. In its early days, the CSW focused on changing discriminatory legislation and fostering global awareness of women’s issues, including arguing for more inclusive language in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It concentrated on researching and compiling data to develop a global understanding of the status of women around the world. Over the years, with the support of women’s rights activists, the CSW has played an important role in:
- bringing women’s political, marriage and labour rights to the fore;
- focusing on women’s needs in developing countries in light of poverty’s disproportionate effect on women;
- pushing for the elimination of discrimination against women as reflected in the 1965 adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and
- recasting violence against women as a human rights issue, and not simply a private domestic matter, as reflected in the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
At the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in September 1995 the CSW led a preparatory process that resulted in the Platform for Action. After two weeks of political debate and engagement involving 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists, 189 governments made commitments to advance women’s rights in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, focusing on 12 areas: (1) women and poverty, (2) education and training of women, (3) women and health, (4) violence against women, (5) women and armed conflict, (6) women and the economy, (7) women in power and decision-making, (8) institutional mechanisms, (9) human rights of women, (10) women and the media, (11) women and the environment, and (12) the girl child.
Among other things, CSW monitors the Declaration’s implementation. It meets annually for two weeks at UN headquarters in New York when UN Member States, civil society organizations, and UN entities gather and discuss both the progress that has been made, as well as remaining gaps. Implementation relating to issues of concern is reviewed using priority themes, recommendations are made to accelerate realization of the Declaration’s commitments, emerging issues are addressed, and progress is reviewed and encouraged through analysis of themes and negotiation of agreed conclusions, which are then sent to ECOSOC for follow up.
The agreed conclusions from the 2023 CSW meeting focus on the priority theme of innovation and technological change. Sima Sami Bahous, ED of UN Women stated that these Conclusions are “game-changing and bring forward our vision of a more equal and connected world for women and girls in all their diversity”.
Stay tuned for future eQ blog instalments focusing on UNCSW discussions relating to tech-facilitated gender based violence, AI and more!
Commission on the Status of Women, Reports of ECOSOC to the General Assembly, UNECOSOCOR, 2nd Sess 1946, online: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/043/10/IMG/NR004310.pdf?OpenElement.
“A brief history of the Commission on the Status of Women,” online: UN Women, online: https://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/brief-history.
Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, “A Short History of the Commission on the Status of Women” (2019) UN Women, online: https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2019/A-short-history-of-the-CSW-en.pdf.
Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 7 November 1967, online: https://www.eods.eu/library/UNGA_Declaration%20Women_1967_en.pdf.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 20 December 1993, online: https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/eliminationvaw.pdf.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 15 September 1995, online: https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/BDPfA%20E.pdf.
“The Beijing Platform for Action Turns 20,” online: UN Women https://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/about.
“Beijing Platform for Action,” online: GOVPH https://pcw.gov.ph/beijing-platform-for-action/.
United Nations, “After Lengthy Negotiations, Commission on Status of Women Concludes 2023 Session, Approving Texts on Gender Equality, Empowerment in Digital Age” 17 March 2023, online: https://press.un.org/en/2023/wom2230.doc.htm.