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ECOSOC Discusses the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

10 Aug

For those who followed the discussions of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the theme of “The Empowerment of Rural Women and their Role in Poverty and Hunger Eradication, Development and Current Challenges,”it was disappointing to see that there were no agreed recommendations. It was disappointing not only for the process, but also for what the lack of agreement says about the importance of the issues of rural women. CSW is part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is a global policy-making body focused on gender equality and the advancement of women. Annual meetings are held during which member states evaluate progress and establish global standards on these issues.

At the recent ECOSOC session, after a statement made by Ambassador Kamara of the Republic of Liberia who chaired the 56th session of CSW, member states discussed the progress that has been made with regard to mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programs in the UN system. While many applauded the creation of UN Women and the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), states were nevertheless frustrated about missed opportunities and felt that much more work needed to be done to advance women’s rights. Mexico, El Salvador, the United States, Belarus, Israel, Australia, Indonesia, Argentina, and Japan all mentioned that the inability to reach consensus on rural women at the 56th session was disappointing. Some states indicated that working methods should be reevaluated. Many highlighted forms of gender-based violence and discrimination that they believed should be focus points moving forward.

Nonetheless, the discussion at the most recent ECOSOC session did not just focus on the CSW; a few draft resolutions were also passed but only one of these – Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women – was contested. The United States shared its commitment to support women in Palestine and improving the humanitarian situation, but also expressed concerns over how the situation in Gaza and the role of Hamas can be a barrier to women’s fundamental rights. Finally, the US was not satisfied with the status of the text and encouraged ECOSOC to look at mutual goals. Israel and Canada agreed that politicizing the situation of Palestinian women was not justified and reminded the Council of the many human rights violations attributed to Hamas. These states asserted that an ethical draft would have focused on supporting Palestinian women, and would have been written primarily to address the challenges they face. Palestine reiterated that Israeli occupation is a major difficulty for Palestinian women and girls. The draft passed with 30 votes in favor, 2 opposed, and 18 abstentions. By adopting the resolution, the Council encouraged the international community to take special note of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls and to increase measures to help these women and girls in the challenges they face.

Overall, while discussions on the advancement of women are always welcomed and there can never be too many, we hope that more issues will get on the ECOSOC agenda that are complementary to other issues in the UN system, especially as the 57th session of the CSW approaches with the theme of “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

–Melina Lito and Henry Neuwirth