Results and Rights: Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda through CEDAW

Saturday, September 26, 2015
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Conflict Prevention
United Nation Theme: 

The United Nations will launch the Post-2015 development agenda in a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly that will take place from 25-27 Sept. 2015. This UN Summit will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals and mark the way forward for the global development agenda. Alongside the UN Summit, IWRAW Asia Pacific is organisaing a meeting that will focus on CEDAW and monitoring the sustainable development goals and Post-2015 development agenda. 

Results and Rights: Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda through CEDAW

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific

26 Sept. 2015, 3-6pm, Armenian Hall NY

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 Targets were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 25 Sept. 2015. In light of this, IWRAW convened a discussion with women’s rights activists to strategize ways to incorporate other human rights commitments, particularly CEDAW, into the implementation and follow-up of the SDGs. As stated in the event concept note, “When the SDGs are delinked from these State obligations [CEDAW], which are recognised by the international community as acceptable norms and standards, it becomes impossible to achieve economic growth that ensures the wellbeing of people.” The purpose of the event was to “examine how CEDAW as an international mechanism can be used to ensure accountability of the SDGs” and “examine possible means of influencing national and regional mechanisms for monitoring implementation of the SDGs to ensure compliance with CEDAW principles and standards.”

Lesly Ann Foster, Executive Director of Masimanyane Women’s Support Center opened the panel. She urged that civil society and women’s organisations hold governments accountable to their development commitments. She reviewed some of the positive aspects of CEDAW that should be reflected in the Post-2015 Agenda. The CEDAW reporting framework recognises that women are not a homogenous group, Post-2015 implementation and follow-up must also recognise the different forms of discrimination women face. According to Ms. Foster “women don’t live single issue lives, our responses cannot be single issue.” She also cautioned that the concept of development does not automatically equal human rights and women’s rights. The SDGs must be different from the Millennium Development Goals and avoid siloing of women’s rights. This theme of intersectionality was reflected again and again throughout the discussion.

Shanthi Dairiam, founder of IWRAW and former member of the CEDAW committee, outlined the failures of the Post-2015 Agenda through the lens of CEDAW. Universality, issues of culture, and indivisibility have been contested and there has been an attempt to delink human rights and development. This separation exists within the UN itself, there is no role for the High Commissioner of Human Rights in the SDG follow-up and review process. It remains to be seen if Member States and the UN will really commit to human rights in the implementation of the SDGs. Human rights need to be at the forefront during the selection of indicators.

Savitri Goonesekere, former member of the CEDAW committee, spoke on how CEDAW can be important to the Post-2015 Agenda. CEDAW imposes accountability for both State and non-state actors. Equality, universality and indivisibility are the central concepts of CEDAW, however CEDAW has not been integrated into the development agenda or implementation planning. CEDAW’s monitoring mechanism, the annual Progress Review, has successfully impacted law, policy and resource allocation. Ms. Goonesekere emphasised the need to keep the emphasis of the SDGs on gender equality, possible linking the Progress Review mechanism to progress on the SDGs. She also criticised the role of CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities) and the practice of taking into account specificities of countries. This undermines both universality (everyone has rights) and indivisibility (rights cannot be divided.) It is the role of women’s group to put the pressure on states to keep international law (i.e. CEDAW) paramount as state policy often trumps international law in practice.

Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, addressed possible avenues of advocacy. She stressed the importance of accessing spaces to implement this document to equality and the potential of translating the SDGs into rights (e.g. Goal 1 = the right to an adequate standard of living.) There are many international processes which are linked to the SDGs: CEDAW, CERD (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), the WTO, ILO, WHO, and UNSC Res. 1325. Advocates should focus on cross-constituency, multi-issue organising and developing integrated advocacy strategies, not just focussing on governments.

IWRAW hopes that this discussion results in targeted and informed engagement with the development agenda by civil society with the prioritisation of women’s rights enshrined by CEDAW, as well as increased awareness of the interlinked nature of development and women’s rights, particularly the fundamental importance of addressing systematic discrimination against women.