March 26, 2021

The 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the foremost intergovernmental body dedicated to gender equality, came to a close today, Friday, 26 March 2021, after negotiations on the text of the agreed conclusions stretched into the final day of the conference. 

“Feminist movements are as determined as ever to forge new ground and make progress,” commented Eleanor Blomstrom, Senior Program Officer for the International Women Health Coalition (IWHC). 

“We have overcome significant barriers to participation and increasing pushback from regressive governments to achieve a win for all women and girls. We celebrate this year’s renewed global commitments and demand that governments match their words with action,” she said about the CSW’s final outcome.

IWHC advocated for strong commitments from governments at the CSW. As a co-convener of the Women’s Rights Caucus (WRC)—a global coalition of more than 200 feminist organizations, networks, and collectives—IWHC welcomes the adoption of the agreed conclusions and the renewal of a global commitment to achieving inclusive gender equality. The consensus shows multilateral support to advance the human rights of all women and girls.

IWHC applauds several key areas of progress, including explicit calls for:

  • Recognition of opportunities and threats posed by online platforms which have enabled women’s and girls’ participation and access to decision-making spaces, but need further measures to ensure that women and girls can use those spaces without threats of violence and harassment.
  • New commitments to address the gendered impacts of COVID-19, particularly among women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and to take stronger action to mitigate them. 

Despite progress, a number of states and anti-rights civil society actors continue to disrupt constructive and plural dialogue with attacks on human rights language and opposition to truly advancing a gender equality agenda. IWHC and fellow feminists of the WRC are particularly outraged by the intensified anti-trans rhetoric and mobilization. UN Women and NGO-CSW must ensure a safer space for all during the CSW, especially communities and movements that have historically experienced marginalization and violence.

IWHC is also concerned about increasing challenges to civil society participation in the CSW and other UN spaces, which was amplified by COVID-19 restrictions. The continuing problem of the shrinking civil society participation was even more visible this year due to the virtual nature of CSW. Civil society represents communities on the ground and is a crucial resource of information as well as a watchdog keeping states accountable for their commitments. 

Members of the Women’s Rights Caucus produced a joint statement on the CSW outcome: “We are encouraged by the international community reconfirming its commitment to gender equality. However, commitments mean nothing without action. The WRC calls on states to ensure that commitments are followed by swift action and mobilization of public resources. Neither sovereignty nor culture, tradition or religion can be used in bad faith to not comply with  governments’ obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all women.”

As a leader of the UN Generation Equality Action Coalition on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy, IWHC will be looking for action from governments as the first Generation Equality Forum kicks off in Mexico City, and virtually, next week. 

These events provide the opportunity for cross-regional and global advocacy to focus resources and political will into a progressive and just agenda for gender equality that truly leaves no one behind.

Contact: Michelle Chasteen

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