The fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from Tuesday, 22 February to Friday, 4 March, and on Monday, 14 March 2011.
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WILPF organized two main events at CSW55 (2011). First, we partnered with UN Women and OneVoice to discuss “Gender, Technology & Peacebuilding: Bridging the Israel-Palestine Divide,” on February 22nd 2011. The event featured the voices of two extraordinary young women peace leaders, Roza Helou and Dana Sender. Second, we partnered with Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW) and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) to host a reception and discussion on peace activism and women's leadership on February 24th with Felicity Hill and Gillian Kitley.
The PeaceWomen team also monitored select events and resources specifically related to the Women, Peace and Security agenda throughout the 55th Session. Event highlights included the launches of the new UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and Nepal’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Both events reaffirmed the commitment to the advancement of women.
Approximately 70 events directly involved main themes related to women in conflict and post-conflict societies. Some of the WPS events took up the official theme of CSW55, which intersected with WPS mainly with regard to participation and how education and training in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT-training) can empower both women and men to further strengthen the pursuit of the WPS policy agenda. As stated during the Global Women Parliament: “The concept of participation needs to be expanded to include not only women’s presence, but access to real, meaningful power. Participation must be about strategic presence in order to successfully maneuver a typically male-dominated arena.”
Participation, Education and ICT-training
Women’s participation received greatest attention among WPS topics discussed. Several NGO’s presented research, programmes and initiatives, which focused on women’s participation in peace processes and in decision-making. Education and ICT-training were often presented as essential means to enhance women’s empowerment, capacity and awareness rising. In contemporary socio-economic and political contexts, meaningful participation is dependent upon having access to ICT tools.
Women’s access to media and the representation of women in media represented a dimension of the ICT-participation discussion. For example, WILPF’s event, “Technology & Peacebuilding: Bridging the Israel-Palestine Divide”, showed how gender inclusive media can enhance women’s participation in the peace movement. Similarly, the event “Empowering Women to Document”, showed how basic ICT-training enable rural and/or illiterate women to find tools to get their voices heard. Other events presented education and ICT training from the prevention dimension of WPS, particularly the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, by explaining how ICT training facilitates early warning systems.
A large majority of the WPS events did not directly intersect with the CSW55 theme but instead dealt more generally with the implementation of 1325 and other subthemes of the agenda. The organization of civil society organisations around 1325, conflict and post-conflict issues during this year’s CSW demonstrated once again civil society’s commitment to move the WPS agenda forward. As stated by representatives from Femmes Afrique Solidarité (FAS): “It is important to continue to advocate for SCR 1325 and the prevention, participation, protection of women in the context of human rights and security”.
The official CSW events largely referenced WPS in the context of the new UN entity UN Women, which announced the full implementation of SCR 1325 (2000) as one five core areas of work. Subsequent CSW events discussed agency, political will, and the balance of responsibility between Member States, UN offices, and civil society. Civil society voiced their concerns relating to the policy implementation, both within the UN and among Member States, of 1325 (2000), CEDAW and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). The event “Implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women and Peace and Security”, Global Network for Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) presented an open letter to the Member States of the Security Council on SCR 1960 (2010).
Several events focused on national legislation specific to the needs and rights of women and women’s subsequent access to justice. Notably, the event “Protection and Restitution for Survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence”, given by the Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (ACORD) presented the findings of a judicial audit, conducted in five African countries, regarding laws against sexual and gender based violence. Echoing the conclusions of other CSW55 Panels, ACORD stated that though countries have existing laws prohibiting sexual and gender based violence, institutional gaps inhibit the implementation of existing legislation. Furthermore, insufficient political will to ratify and implement international laws such as CEDAW perpetuates the legal disempowerment and insecurity of women.
Violence against Women (VAW)
Violence against Women received much attention among CSW events. Although significant efforts have been made by both civil society and the international community, this problem continues to have a severe impact on women and girls. In conflict and post-conflict countries, women are uniquely at risk of and targeted by violence and human rights violations, including sexual and gender based violence and political violence.
Protection and Impunity
CSW55 events addressed impunity for VAW in the context of the protection dimension of WPS. Panelists discussed how civil society could train women to protect themselves, through early warning mechanisms and documentation. In parallel to CSO efforts, speakers cited the roles and responsibilities of governments, international organizations and religious leaders.
The CSW55 highlighted numerous country and region-specific issues. Geographic focuses included:
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The 55th Commission on the Status of Women took place between the 22nd of February and 4th March 2011. Representatives from Member States, the United Nations and the civil society gathered to discuss the theme of this session; “Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work”. In addition to the official CSW events and the United Nations’ parallel events, civil society arranged many Panels, workshops and roundtables. These provided a unique forum for the global civil society to voice issues regarding gender, education, science and technology.
The Commission drafted, negotiated and voted on three resolutions (to be recommended by ECOSOC): “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (E/CN.6/2011/L.2), “Women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS” (E/CN.6/2011/L.3), and “Mainstreaming gender equality and promoting empowerment of women in climate change policies and strategies” (E/CN.6/2011/L.1). Regarding the resolution on the situation of Palestinian women, there is clear mention of the need for women in decision-making, as well as a reference to SCR 1325: “Emphasizing the importance of increasing the role of women in peacebuilding and decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and the peaceful resolution of conflicts as part of efforts to ensure the safety and well being of all women in the region, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and involvement in all efforts for the achievement, maintenance and promotion of peace and security…”. The voting pattern differed little from CSW54; United States and Israel voted against the resolution, and about ten Member States abstained. Among those abstaining was the European Union, with an “explanation of vote”.
The Commission welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). It also reaffirmed the importance of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), CEDAW and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Negotiations leading up to the agreed conclusion proved difficult, as the Holy See (the Vatican), with observer status, attempted to narrow the scope of interpretation for the word “gender”. Delegations worked to maintain agreed language and advancement of the women/gender agenda.
Read PeaceWomen’s full report here.