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A Turning Point

Soroptimist International feared that once again, as per CSW 56 in 2012, that there would be a failure to reach firm agreed conclusions, or worse, that the outcomes may weaken existing international standards. By the last day hope was waning but the hard work continued.

On March 15th, the very last day of the CSW 57, Soroptimist delegate and Past President of Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland Pat Black reported back from what turned out to be a “roller coaster day”. Work still needed to be done at this stage to persuade respective governments that the wording on sexual orientation and gender identity and intimate partner violence needed an agreement. The word ’sovereignty’ which was the most vital, also needed to be removed as if retained it would have meant that individual countries could opt out of clauses if they so choose to. This was dangerous territory and needed to be avoided. Heated debate took place on the inclusion of this and when it was seen that no negotiation could be realised, the paragraph was deleted in a ‘take it or leave it’ option by the CSW chair Marjon V Kamara. This paragraph was a real danger and sent out the message that the implementation of women’s rights is optional. Its removal was a huge relief.

At 3pm no further agreements had been reached. “The facilitator had taken the negotiators through each clause, defining all wording in it which could be closed off, leaving unagreed wording in brackets. NGOs who were part of Government delegations were in the negotiating room, others were outside with noses pressed against the window watching, emailing, texting and tweeting to as many people in the room as possible. Time was passing and the pressure was mounting”.

At the very last minute, lo and behold, agreed conclusions were made. Everyone started to celebrate and Michelle Bachelet described it as an historic event because it set global standards for action to “prevent and end one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world, the violence that is committed against women and girls”.

Anusha Santhirasthipham said

It is a sweet day for us and NGO/CSW Vienna because our proposals to end femicide have been adopted and included. More specifically, our strong call has led to specific clause wording to end female infanticide. We dedicate our hard fought victory to these lost women and girls. Now we must make sure our Governments honour the commitment and roll out action”.

She further stated that “This was in the end a very good example of collaboration and bridge building. The team spirit among NGOs and UN Women staff was phenomenal”.

Every Member State country is now expected to bring its national policies into line with the Agreed Conclusions. The benefit of the Agreed Conclusions is that it gives countries guidelines for accepted practice and a leverage point to pressure one another. So the work must not stop, and the lobbying must continue in every country so that member states honour the commitments they have made.

< SI Action at CSW57

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