Call to action: Civil society must be meaningfully included at CSW65
The United Nations has over the past 75 years benefited greatly from cooperation with civil society that brings important expertise, and diverse experiences and perspectives to strengthen policy-making.
However global civil society is concerned that the UN’s 65th Commission of the Status of Women in March 2021 is not meaningfully inclusive of civil society voices. Virtual UN meetings present an opportunity for broader participation, due to no travel costs or visa barriers, and this opportunity should be harnessed during CSW65. Indeed we recognize that many people around the world have poor or no connectivity, hence the need to maximize for those to be able to be virtually present.
The UN Secretary General underlined the importance of public participation and civic space in his 2020 Call to Action for Human Rights. He specifically recommended:
- Supporting more systematic participation of civil society in United Nations bodies and agencies, with special attention to those previously underrepresented, such as women and young people.
- Stepping up action on online civic space to ensure an accessible and free internet that enables the free flow of information and debates.
Normally during the physical CSW meetings, civil society can take part in the official program in their own right if they have ECOSOC accreditation; or as part of a member state delegation and they also can take part in the negotiations as observers if they are in a member state delegation. In addition, civil society would attend the formal and informal briefing sessions hosted by member states.
This year however, member states only have two delegates allowed to take part in the official program and two seats in the negotiations, leaving very limited possibility for civil society who in the best case scenario is invited to have one seat. Most civil society actors are asked to watch the official program through UN Web TV, without active participation, and most member states have decided not to give up one of their seats to civil society during the negotiations, leaving civil society muted to a large extend at this year’s CSW.
Given the topic, “Women in Public Life - equal participation in decision making”, we are left with the question of whether civil society should not be meaningfully included at the decision making during CSW65? We call on member states to include civil society as meaningfully as possible.
We recommend member states to:
- Provide civil society with the opportunity to participate actively in the official program to ensure diverse views and foster greater opportunities for interaction and meaningful engagement.
- Give one of your seats in the negotiations to civil society to be able to observe the negotiations.
- Share every new version of agreed conclusions with civil society and bring their inputs to negotiations.
Finding solutions to the virtual limitations are important not just for inclusion in CSW65, but as we are looking ahead to other important processes such as Commission on Population and Development CPD and High-level Political Forum (HLPF). Even beyond the pandemic, virtual components present an opportunity for broader participation that should be sought maximized for the benefit of all.
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