CSW 57

Monday, March 4, 2013

The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 4 to 15 March 2013.

  • Priority theme: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls
  • Review theme: The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS
  • Emerging issue: Key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework

Read more here.


According to Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary General, “WILPF participation in this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was historic and highlighted our global outreach as a women’s peace movement.”

Our participation at CSW 57 (2013) was strong in numbers (over 70) and commitment. WILPF members, staff and partners participated from every region of the world and over 25 countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Colombia, UK, US, Sweden, Canada, Japan, Australia, Lebanon, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, France, China, Kenya, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland and Nigeria.

In addition to being regionally diverse, our delegation was inter-generational. For example, participants from WILPF U.S. included 6 mature participants in WILPF’s Local to Global programme, and 15 young women from universities as part of WILPF’s annual Practicum in Advocacy.

As Maria Butler, PeaceWomen Director and coordinator of WILPF CSW engagement noted, “Given the theme and WILPF’s work, this year, we organized and supported an impressive number of events focused on addressing the root causes of violence against women and underlining the linkages with militarism and gun violence.”

We worked collectively on advocacy on strengthening the Agreed Conclusions with a focus on WILPF priority areas for CSW: linkage with arms, women peace and security and women’s participation. We lobbied delegations, issued numerous WILPF and joint statements and sent masses of emails. On the second to last day of negotiations, there was still no reference to arms in the draft Agreed Conclusion despite our consistent push - but we did not give up. On behalf of WILPF and 14 co-sponsoring organizations, Annie Matundu-Mbambi (President of WILPF-DRC) delivered our joint oral statement in the official room at CSW. Our statement was direct and called to include a reference to arms in the CSW outcome document and to adopt a strong arms trade treaty with legally binding gender provisions. On the final day of negotiations with much still open and un-agreed, it was confirmed that there was a late inclusion of language recognizing that “illicit use of and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons aggravates violence, inter alia, against women and girls”. This reference, among others we supported, was critical especially as WILPF continued our advocacy with States the following week on the Arms Trade Treaty.

The “WILPF Strategy Orientation Day” allowed us to connect, reconnect, and discuss the upcoming session. Throughout the next two weeks, WILPFers addressed the connections to the wider political and socio-economic system, and reiterated the need to focus on human security rather than state security to eliminate violence against women and girls. WILPFers also emphasized the need for the women’s movement to be involved in the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations to ensure that the connection between gender and militarization will be addressed in broader contexts.

Members of the WILPF delegation participated in many events. Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, spoke at numerous high-level events, addressing key linkages and contributing with her expertise as a human rights lawyer. At the end of week one, Madeleine was keynote speaker at a special screening of the film ‘The Whistleblower’ followed by an expert panel at the WILPF symposium “Avenues to Accountability: Militarism, Trafficking, Exploitation and Justice.” The WILPF U.S. Section also held an event on trafficking – addressing trafficking across the US-Mexican border and the high rates of murders of women in Cuidad Juárez in Mexico.

WILPF’s cross-section coordination and partnership was in full bloom at CSW as shown by the excellent joint event with WILPF Sweden, Costa Rica, Colombia, Nigeria and the DRC on “Violence against Women – the lethal consequences of arms” which is part of an ongoing project between these sister sections.

WILPF partners from the MENA region called for CSW to reflect on the reality for women facing increased militarization in the region, realizing that the biggest threats in the region are poverty, unregulated weapons trade, and a lack of democratic oversight of the armed forces. Read the statement here.

CSW was also a time for WILPF internal strategy meetings. Our partners and staff working on the WILPF MENA project came together at CSW to move their advocacy and collective actions forward in the region. Partners from Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, and Lebanon issued a joint statement and spoke truth to power at our event at UN Headquarters on March 8th.

At these events and others, WILPFers joined with feminist allies, demanding transformation away from the current militarized and unequal structures of development, and toward peace and freedom rooted in gender equality from the personal to the international levels. As Melissa Torres and Rita Janowski-Bradley of WILPF-US demanded, when it comes to violence against women and girls, we must take action to guarantee “¡Ni una más! Not one more!”

On the evening of the 8 March, International Women’s Day, WILPF launched the historic movement leading to our 100th year Anniversary in 2015. At the launch, WILPF women celebrated the last century of advocacy for peace and freedom, and prepared to unleash the power of women to end war in the next century by strengthening women’s voices, challenging militarism, and moving forward together.

The WILPF PeaceWomen team also monitored over 70 events and resources specifically related to the Women, Peace and Security agenda throughout 57th Session. Consistent themes in these events included women’s access – or lack thereof – to justice, how to ensure accountability, and implementation of laws and resolutions related to violence against women in conflict- and post- conflict settings. Additional recurring themes were the need to engage men and boys in the work towards preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls and the need to change social norms and attitudes.

Read PeaceWomen’s full report here.

Read WILPFs statement to the UN here.

See Annie Matundu Mbambi, President of WILPF DRC, giving the WILPF oral statement at CSW57 here.



The 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from Monday, 4 March to Friday, 15 March 2013. This session focused on the theme of "the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls." An outcome document was adopted on 15 March and can be read here.

Despite last year’s (2012) failure to reach Agreed Conclusions and continued division, States were able this year to come to consensus on the outcome document addressing the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. This years’ political dynamics between States continued to be alarming with a conservative pushback led by Iran, Russia, Syria and the Vatican (Holy See) who supported adding controversial paragraphs about traditions and national sovereignty, which would have undermined the whole text. These paragraphs did not make the final agreement.

The final Agreed Conclusions incorporated many aspects of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, including explicit reference to all WPS resolutions (1325, 1889, 1820, 1888, 1960) in paragraph 8 of the outcome document.

On prevention, the Agreed Conclusions acknowledge the relationship between the “illicit use of, and illicit trade in, small arms and light weapons and aggravated violence against women and girls”, which was a late addition to the text and part of WILPF’s advocacy priorities.

Paragraph 5 addresses prevention of impunity and reiterates that “the Commission recalls the inclusion of gender-related crimes and crimes of sexual violence in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as the recognition by the ad hoc international criminal tribunals that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide or torture.”

There is stronger language on participation than in the zero draft, including a call for increase in women’s participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes and post-conflict decision-making.

In addition there is an important paragraph on supporting and protecting women human rights defenders. For the first time ever the Commission specifically requires states to “[s]upport and protect those who are committed to eliminating violence against women, including women human rights defenders in this regard, who face particular risks of violence.”

The Agreed Conclusions also explicitly call for accessible and affordable healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health services, such as emergency contraception and safe abortion for victims of violence. Despite this area being highly contested, states for the first time reached consensus that rape survivors are entitled to emergency contraception.

These are all significant areas of strength.

In other areas, however, there are clear remaining weaknesses. There is no new language on “gender identity” or “gender orientation” to address the protection of LGBT rights - which represents a huge gap. Proposed language on “intimate partner” or ”intimate relationships” did not make the final text, which would give some recognition to violence occurring outside of marriage but within partner relations. Nor was there any language on the negative effects of military spending or military GBV, issues that have made it to the final document other years.