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New York: Trade union delegation demands more from their governments

published 10 March 2015 updated 1 April 2015

Global Union delegations at the UN are urging member states to make a stronger commitment to women’s economic rights on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and in the new sustainable development goals.

For unions at the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women(CSW59) in New York City, a greater government commitment to women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ right to quality education and public services, and to make their work more transparent and inclusive is a must. However, it has been a challenge to get the message to their governments.

The Education International (EI) delegation at the CSW59, together with the delegations of other global unions, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Public Services International (PSI), have joined close to 1,000 women’s rights organisationsand networks to protest their exclusion from the negotiating process at the CSW.

On the first day of the Session, March 9th 2015, the UN member States adopted a Political Declaration to mark the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. In this declaration, governments pledged to “take further concrete actions to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA)”.

In a surprising break from the usual CSW method of work, the hundreds of women’s and civil society organisationsattending the CSW to lobby their governments have had little or no input on the content of the declaration.

There is considerable upset at this turn of events, given the significance of the 20th anniversary of the BPfA, the most far reaching document on women’s rights and empowerment ever agreed.

In response, nearly 1,000 women’s rights, community-based and other civil society organisationssigned a statement of protest, decrying the lack of transparency; the Global Union Federations have endorsed this statement.

The labourdelegations at CSW59 have also released a statement calling on member states to make a stronger and clearer commitment to implementation of the BPfA, specifically in relation to women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ right to quality education and public services.

The statement also urges member states to return to the usual more transparent and inclusive method of work at the CSW. This is extremely important for the labourdelegations, since the priority theme of next year’s CSW will be women’s economic empowerment.

The negotiating process to reach agreement on this outcome document was different from previous years in two ways: firstly, the member states adopted a three-page ‘Political Declaration’, as opposed to the longer ‘Agreed Conclusions’ document that is usually adopted during the CSW. Secondly, the negotiations took place ahead of the opening of the CSW Session, which is what made it possible for the declaration to be adopted on the first day.

The CSW59 continues in New York, USA, until 20 March. The full trade union statement can be read here on the global unions’ CSW59 blog.