The consensus declaration underlines the importance of gender equality to progress on all 17 SDGs.
The declaration was adopted during a one-day procedural meeting with the participation only of New York-based delegations and civil society representatives; the CSW session was then suspended due to public health concerns related to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19.
The 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 64) adopted a political declaration identifying both new and long-standing challenges to gender equality and women’s empowerment 25 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women. The consensus declaration underlines the importance of gender equality to progress on all 17 SDGs.
CSW 64 was scheduled to convene from 9-20 March 2020 in New York, US for the 25-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the outcomes of the 1995 conference, known as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In early March it was decided to reduce the meeting – which UN Women reports is usually the largest annual gathering on gender equality and the empowerment of women at the UN – to a one-day procedural meeting on 9 March with the participation only of New York-based delegations and civil society representatives, due to public health concerns related to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. All side events were cancelled.
Deliberations on the declaration began with a comprehensive report from the UN Secretary-General (E/CN.6/2020/3). The report was “based on an extensive, participatory stock-taking exercise on women’s rights, combined with global data and analysis,” according to UN Women, which notes that 171 governments submitted national reports, and hundreds of civil society activists contributed to the national and regional reviews.
A woman in power is not a threat.
The resulting declaration takes stock of the status of women and assesses current challenges to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It recognizes new challenges alongside long-standing ones, including: right to education, including in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); women’s leadership at all levels of society; access to equal pay and addressing unpaid care and domestic work; disproportionate effects of climate change and natural disasters on women and girls; violence and harmful practices against women and girls, protection in armed conflict, the right to health, and addressing hunger and malnutrition.
On ways to address such gaps and challenges, the text identifies eliminating discriminatory laws, ensuring adequate financing to fulfill commitments, breaking down stereotypes in the media, and utilizing gender statistics, among other means.
Opening remarks for the meeting on 9 March were made by UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who said “change has been slow for most women and girls in the world.” He reported that:
- women take on three times more unpaid work than men;
- the majority of jobs which will be automated in the future are currently undertaken by women; and
- Only 16 of 192 speakers in the UNGA’s 2019 General Debate were women, and globally, only 24% of parliamentarians are women: “this is not representative of the people we serve.”
Muhammad-Bande called on UN Member States to include women in their delegations and among speakers at high-level fora. He stressed that “a woman in power is not a threat. We all benefit from representative leadership.”
Also providing opening remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres observed that a legacy of the Beijing process has been movement building. However, Beijing’s vision “has been only partly realized…. We still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture.” Noting that some countries have rolled back laws that protect women from violence, and that access to sexual and reproductive health services is far from universal, Guterres said “we must push back against the pushback.” He highlighted the UN’s efforts for gender parity, which was achieved in January 2020 among full-time senior leadership. A roadmap for all levels is laid out for the coming years.
UN-Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka voiced impatience for change, saying women do not want to go through the experiences of their elders, while the elders are tired of waiting. Mona Juul, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), recalled that the CSW was among the first ECOSOC subsidiary bodies created in 1946, and its efforts remain as fundamental nearly 75 years later. Other opening speakers included Heela Yoon, who urged parties involved in Afghanistan’s peace process to remain committed to women’s rights: “Without women, this peace will be a broken peace,” as reported in the UN’s meeting summary.
The six-page declaration was adopted by consensus. It looks forward to the UNGA’s high-level meeting on 23 September 2020 to commemorate the Fourth World Conference on Women.
Leading to that high-level commemoration, Beijing+25 ‘Generation Equality’ Forums will convene in Mexico, from 7-8 May 2020, and in Paris, France, from 7-10 July. The Generation Equality Forum being convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France aims to achieve tangible results on gender equality during the Decade of Action for the SDGs. [Political Declaration] [UN News story] [UN meeting summary]