Meeting of Regional Caucuses with UN Women

Consultation between Regional NGOs and UN Women

Representatives from UN Women

Christine Heckler: UN Women, Director of Strategic Partnerships

Lakshmi Puri: UN Women Assistant Secretary General

Gilden Goyalett: UN Women Director of Program Division

Sarah Satisvenono: UN Women Director of Policy Division

Lopa Banerjee: Civil Society Representative for UN Women

 

In an effort to incorporate UN efforts to act transparently and involve  CSOs, our joint NGO UN Women regional caucus meeting continued the open regional group’s dialogue of HE Bachelet’s meeting held last year. Our meeting discussed collaboration between CSOs and the UN on UN Women’s policy issues. UN Women hopes this event will be a good forum for communication and that the meeting will come to concrete points on how to move forward. UN Women is aware of how all regions are individual and takes that into consideration when establishing the advisory group.  The program is an open dialogue session.

 

Adama Diop: Vice President of Conference of NGO’s (CoNGO)

  • Congratulations to NGO/CSW/NY for its work on programing and coordinating wonderful events for CSOs.
  • CoNGO emphasized the importance of regions participating with each other through CSWand is working to find ways to incorporate women who are unable to travel to New York. Diop believes that regional committees can act as inclusive “mini CSW’s” with a common position representative of CSW in NY. CoNGO is very ready to support this initiative and the NGO CSW.

 

 

Lakshmi Puri:

  • The Consultation Day showed the importance of institutionalizing and solidifying the relationship between CSOs and UN Women. CSOs work to foster women’s capacity to be their own agents of change. UN Women derives great strength in considering CSOs as privileged partners in this great movement in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • What levels of cooperation should be focused on national, governmental and international levels? Considerable research, knowledge and databases are needed to share UN Women’s and CSOs’ knowledge.
  • All intergovernmental normative processes are important, but the key is to be able to work with CSOs to strongly push a gender equality standard. We need to work with your governments to push the envelope of international norms and standards. We must work together to lobby with governments and have higher standards, and hold governments accountable for the implementation of CEDAW and other women’s rights.
  • UN Women and CSOs need to work together to bring about change in thinking at the grassroots/national/regional levels.
  • UN Women would like to continue forming partnerships with the private sector and governments to create four- and five-way programmatic partnerships at the country and regional levels. CSOs strengths on the ground will be invaluable for the success of UN Women.
  • UN Women’s priority areas are: Economic empowerment, political participation, gender responsive planning and budgeting, and ending violence against women. Although these are our priorities, this does not mean that we will not be taking up advocacy in other areas. Our focus has to be in these areas so that when the UN works with CSOs, they will also focus primarily on these same issues.  All roads lead to gender equality and women’s empowerment and UN Women is there to support them in this.
  • In terms of engagement, there should be CSO advisory councils on the global/national/regional levels. UN Women wants to have an active structure of engagement with NGOs and CSOs, which would consist of representatives to ensure the women’s rights agenda. This is something that UN Women is in the process of setting up. The global, regional and NGO advisory councils will be announced soon. The aim is to build on existing close partnerships and increase the dialogue between civil society and UN Women.  This way we can think globally and act regionally and nationally.

 

  • For your information: Shadow Reporting is an alternative to Government reporting, as CSW does not present formal reports like CEDAW does.
  • In your regional reports, clearly articulate your vision of change, this way the experts can incorporate the visions of CSOs and grassroots women.
  • UN Women fully recognizes that there are a variety of voices to be heard and felt on all policy issues.
  • Adama Diop from CoNGO will be working on establishing planning committees for the regional levels. Soon-Young Yoon and Ms. Diop will go to all the regional caucus to help land the regional planning with CoNGO.

 

Regional Caucus Presentations:

 

Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Caucus

 

The LAC Caucus group began by calling for UN Women to improve the communication of the country offices with women’s groups and organizations. In most cases, there is poor communication as well as a lack of information or misinformation about UN Women’s activities and news. The information must be accessible in terms of language and should be released in a timely manner. The group requests that UN Women establish fluent communication by inviting and incorporating all the diversity of women’s groups, especially young women, indigenous women, Afro descendant women, among others, and by inviting those that are really from these groups rather than those that just represent them.

  • Another request is that UN Women translate their official documents in order to eliminate barriers to accessing information for all women. In order to reach rural women or other groups, the group also suggests expressing messages through simple and clear language, rather than in UN language.
  • In relation to the improvement of political participation, the group considers it necessary to promote a different form of political participation, which is more horizontal and in equal terms for men and women.
  • The emphasis of UN Women must be to train women to fully and effectively exercise their citizenship and to strengthen their capacity to participate in trade unions, political parties, parliament, government, etc.   These trainings must include capacity-building for monitoring policy implementation so that they are able to evaluate and control how policies are implemented. In this sense, political participation is not understood in relation to political parties.
  • All interventions must be oriented toward women’s rights based on CEDAW. Policies adopted globally need to be complemented with guidelines for implementation in order for all governments to interpret them in the same way and for their implementation to be evaluated. The role of education and socialization was recognized as the best channels for promoting social changes.
  • In our region there are many laws and policies established but which lack implementation. The group proposes UN Women take on a proactive attitude and convene dialogues among governments and women’s groups in order to discuss and review policy implementation and ways to reach gender equality.
  • The group also spoke about the need to promote and emphasize policies and governmental interventions that ensure women’s and men’s development, instead of only providing assistance. The group discussed the participation of men in UN Women committees and programs and agrees that this is not possible until they truly express and act in different ways which will ensure gender equality.
  • In relation to programmatic actions, the Caucus pointed out sexual and reproductive rights and health, budgets with gender perspective and the change of the development model as the more important issues worldwide, as well as violence against women and femicides in the region.
  • Regarding Rio +20, the lack of gender perspective in the document was mentioned, as was the importance and need for UN Women to contribute to incorporating women’s groups in the discussion in order to strengthen women’s issues in the document and in all other resolutions to be adopted. All aspects that are related to gender justice are integral to peace and security, and real peace and security are requirements for achieving development. In this regard, the work of UN Women is a real contribution to building peace in the world, and therefore to fulfilling the UN mandate.

 

Asia Pacific Regional Caucu

  • The Asia Pacific region is home to 60% of the world’s women.   The Asia Pacific Regional Caucus acknowledges the complexity and dynamism of women who live in rural contexts and that strategies to address rural women’s issues should be based on women’s empirical realities. We also acknowledge the role of Indigenous women as traditional caretakers of the land and resources.
  • As we head towards the Rio +20 Summit, now is the time to review, re-evaluate, re-strategise and strengthen the situation of women from all ages in this region.  Women face enormous and complex challenges within the framework of climate change and disasters, including food insecurity, unemployment, property rights, access to credit and nuclear disaster.
  • Rural women in the region continue to face gender related inequities which are rooted in structural oppression through class, caste, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity, among other factors. Inequalities and discrimination in women and girls’ access to education, nutrition and health services, sexual and reproductive health services, decision making, access to and control over information and communication, land, water, fishing resources and other productive resources, impede women’s opportunities for decent work, and full participation in public life. Discrimination against women with disabilities and the elderly is a great concern in the region. There is great urgency for inclusion of women in political decision making at all levels
  • Poverty is heavily concentrated in rural areas.  Marginal resource allocation for implementing global and national policy commitments on rural development and the long-term neglect of the agricultural sector are also impeding factors for rural women’s poverty alleviation. Rural development strategies are negatively affected by neo-liberal globalisation in terms of commercialisation of the agricultural sector, liberalisation of trade and commoditisation of food and other agricultural products. Women are time-burdened doing unpaid work to provide the basic needs for the family. The needs of the elderly rural women go unnoticed and not addressed, yet they are the bulk of the rural poor women in the region.
  • Violence against women and girls across all geographic and demographic areas continues to be a major concern. There are increasing reports of FGM, sorcery killings, witch hunting, honor killings, acid throwing cases, homophobic attacks, child marriages, trafficking, rape as an instrument of war and militarization in all forms. New and pervasive forms of violence are emerging alongside new media and technology with cyber bullying for those who have access.
  • We call upon states for specific measures to ensure economic, social and political empowerment of all women, including access to public goods, legal and social protection and public investment in physical and social infrastructure.  We call upon states to recognize women’s critical contribution to rural development and, their rights and priorities in legal frameworks, national and local development policies and investment strategies at all levels.

 

North America/ Europa Regional Caucus

  • The North America/ Europe Caucus appreciates that UN Women offered the open dialogue exchange space with NGOs again during  CSW 56. The Caucus welcomes the strong presence of UN Women during the NGO Consultation Day and in the Commission as well as during the High Level Panels as in the Side Events. It welcomes the start up and first period of UN Women’s appearance in the UN system and emphasizes the importance of  Ms. Bachelet’s gaining high level of attention from governments in the regions of North America and Europe during her last year’s visiting tour through member states. We pay tribute to Ms Bachelet for her work strong support in this regard.
  • We NGOs in the region are working in a context of striving for an enormous set of changes necessary for de facto gender equality. This needs a long time and sometimes patience and a diplomatic tone. We understand this. At the same time we look with strong anticipation upon UN Women maintaining its energetic performance and continuing to fulfill its mandate towards the states of our region without becoming forced to slow down or hide away or take a timid approach.
  • UN Women shall always and primarily echo the voice of women’s human rights – it will help us to enforce them in our region – as with all regions. This would strengthen the regional efforts to enforce gender equality and remind us all of the fundamental importance and legal background of gender equality as an obligation in all areas of life. Almost all member states of the European Union (EU) and many of the Central Eastern Europe (CEE) and Council of Europe (COE) have ratified CEDAW et al.  But de facto enforcement is unnecessarily low and slow. Therefore, even our regions need a strong UN Women as a partner of member states and NGOs. We recommend  that UN Women maintain close cooperation with the OHCHR and the UN Human Rights Treaty bodies in Geneva and with women’s human rights defenders and those working against all forms of gender based violations and discrimination against women and on grounds of gender.
  • UN Women must work inclusivly for all women and people whose cause is gender-based including women of all ages, all minorities, asylum seekers, refugee women, women with disabilities, migrant women, women in prison, etc..
  • UN Women cannot leave one woman behind. Nor can UN Women leave any region behind: all of us, and all of the world’s regions, must work together and be supported in this work. For all of us to succeed in ensuring the rights of women and girls the world over, all of us must be recognized as equal in this struggle.
  • UN Women shall give a priority to the empowerment and security of women’s human rights defenders. UN Women must ensure that their voices are heard and their human rights are protected whenever anyone stops them from talking or participating in UN meetings, denies visa to access the UN and meetings of the UN , and persecutes them after the fact of their participation.
  • The Caucus welcomed the statement of Ms. Bachelet on the failure to adopt agreed conclusions at the end of the CSW 56. The Caucus wishes that UN Women will have an important role in the delicate and difficult decision whether to have a 5th UN World Conference on Women in 2015 or not. The pro and cons have to be carefully balanced and discussed before an agreement to that especially in view of the powers and influences that led to the failure to reach agreed conclusion for CSW 56 and who attacked binding international law as enshrined in CEDAW.  In case the GA decides a 5th UN-World Conference on Women, we NGOs hope UN Women will take and supports only secure decisions that will not open up the Beijing and Beijing+ 5 documents for any negotiations.   We can imagine that it is worth having such a conference which focuses on the new challenges, obstacles  and measures which member states must indeed respond to and agree upon.
  • The Caucus recommends that UN Women help the women of the world, member states and NGOs to keep the blue bible of the UN alive and review its implementation and enforcement especially if a 5th UN World Conference on Women and on gender based challenges and solutions is to take place.
  • UN Women, as an UN agency working for us and having been born with a mandate for the empowerment of women, should inform the women’s rights and gender-based NGOs of all regions about the ongoing destructive work of those who are trying to create a backlash and especially seeking to destroy the human rights and other UN concepts of agreed international law and agreed soft law components. To empower women and their NGOs means as sharing information and letting it flow in real time, as well as in a dialogue with partners. We see NGOs as in partnership with UN Women.
  • The majority of the NGOs of the European and North America Caucus lobbied long via the GEAR campaign for UN Women and wants to see UN Women become a strong and effective UN Agency for gender equality, a partner for the NGOs , and a door opener and liaison agency for the cause of gender equality , especially for the grassroots women’s gender movement.
  • UN Women and its local, national and regional units in our region can count on our NGO support to hold governments accountable for the proper funding of UN Women.  It could create  materials NGOs could use for the fund raising process now and in the long run would be of immense assistance to us in this goal of supporting UN Women, particularly through ensuring adequate – and we would hope more than adequate – funding for UN Women‘s vital work. We are very aware of the present lack of funding for the agency.
  • We know that a good deal of gender equality improvements and the due enforcement of agreed or binding international law on gender equality requires  a strong, effective, informed and NGO- connected UN Women. This requires an ongoing, two-sided communication and for optimal outcomes an actual dialogue in partnership. Partnership in the global context needs a formalized and transparently defined way of possible communication.  We recommend formalization of the rules and methods of direct communication between NGOs and UN Women and vice versa. The NGO/CSW committees in Geneva, New York and Vienna might be one channel for our communication, but not all relevant NGOs who are working on the cause are represented in this committee, and NGOs may have further urgent issues or issues which need  confidential, direct communication with UN Women, avoiding a third channel. Insofar as the national committees for UN Women are financed by and depend on the finances, political will, and focus of national Governments, they might be one second channel to pass on communication to UN Women; they might in many cases be partners, but there are political constellations or even regimes that wont’ allow NGOs to communicate everything through such partners.
  • We recommend the same formalization for procedures as, for example, if a UN Women procedure were installed in the context of alternative reporting to the UN Treaty bodies under the UN Human Rights Treaties, like CEDAW.   Until now, NGOs have forwarded their alternative reports on CEDAW et al. directly to the Treaty Bodies and informed IWRAW as a partner. Insofar as UN Women wants to be involved and wants us NGOs to involve UN Women in this procedure, we need a formalized way which we consider UN Women should design in cooperation with a) the Treaty Bodies b) IWRAW and with c) NGOs of all regions, not only those participating in the CSW. At present we do not really understand UN Women‘s role in the alternative reporting procedure. We hope UN Women will publish more information and their vision on this in the near future.
  • We support UN Women and will be a resource and a partner for advice and consultation on sustainable change and strategies for the continuing power and effectiveness of UN Women. We desire that UN Women build up its own structure and units carefully and that they be independently monitored in order to fulfill its difficult mandate in the most efficient way possible. We expect that UN Women, through branches in the regions of our Caucus, will be accessible and an always present partner for all NGOs including grassroot NGOs.  Even though our regions are partly OECD member states, many discriminatory practices and violations of women’s human rights exist and must be combated and eliminated. The situation has worsened in our regions as a consequences of the financial crisis, through financial cuts and gender- ignorant measures taken by governments reacting to the crisis.  We recommend that UN Women carefully define their understanding of a ‘region’.
  • The UN member states of North America and Europe (previously seen as two regions) as a whole are part of the OECD states (but this includes South Korea as well…). However, there are still many social, economic, cultural and political differences among them. Often in the same rich state there is a growing number of people, especially women migrants, refugees or displaced persons, the elderly, children, indigenous women ,who, as a result of the neoliberal policies undertaken since the nineties and the current financial crisis, are living in poverty or close to the poverty line.
  • The CEE region comprehends improving democracies as well as dictatorship and regimes or states who should be protecting the human rights of their women citizens but are resisting their duty or neglecting to ensure the duty of their deputies (for example, in Chechnya ). Some states have enjoyed a long-lasting peace and some are currently at war.  We recommend that UN Women define ‘region’ more precisely and consider adding ‘sub-regions’ to their system of representation and priority work in the region in order to fulfill their mandate with an enhanced, differentiated view and approach to the regions of our Caucus, thus becoming a true partner for the women and NGOs of this Caucus’ region of North America / Europe.
  • UN Women should open a second entry for NGOs to reach out for cooperation with UN Women independent of the willingness or capacities of governments to support a regional/ national liaison office (Example: Women from Chechnya have recently not been able to connect with UN Women nor with the two trust funds it is holding, since Russia is the responsible government in charge and will neither allow nor support such connection). UN Women can help to get problems and issues of women and girls in the region caused by the financial crisis and its impact recognized and addressed with appropriate policies. Conditions for women and girls have deteriorated in even the OECD states since financial cuts have reduced social, labor market, educational and health services; even the basic fight against violence against women and the provision of shelter protection for women in has been  minimized; NGOs now get less or no funding. There is no policy in place to respond to or counteract these losses. In OECD states generally (except for Greek women) we do not need money from UN Women‘s funds, but we need the attention and support, and equally the cooperation and contact with UN Women to address governments and hold them accountable, especially within the human rights framework. Because the EU recently has been denying funds for NGOs and programs for temporary special measures, especially for the development of women, the funding policy of UN Women towards this region might have to be re-defined.
  • We urge UN Women to keep a watchful eye on the cuts, even in OECD-regions, on the impact and further needs of women in our region and prepare to be flexible in terms their needs. We especially recommend that UN Women hold governments of the OECD member states and of the Regions of North America and Europe accountable for the provision and for to publishing of gender disaggregated data
  • on gender-based discrimination against women, and on progress and decline in violations of women’s human rights (as in CEDAW);
  • in context and as an impact of the financial crisis
  • in context and as a consequence and impact of cuts in public expenditures (often in social and public services budget lines AND in all other)
  • We support the recommendation of the Asian Pacific Caucus during the consultation to group the UN Women Advisory Committees around the 5 thematic issues of the action plan of UN Women. And we emphatically welcome the plan of UN Women to limit the members’ and experts’ term in the UN Women Advisory committees by a rotation every two years.
  • We recommend that UN Women define and publish transparent guidelines, deadlines and formalized ways and means as to how to work with the advisory committees on the various levels: How can NGOs who are not represented in this advisory committees have regular contact with UN Women or how can they exchange or forward information to UN Women or exchange or access UN Women’s advice?
  • What will be the role of the advisory committees  in future: who will be member and what exactly is the democratic procedure of the selection, election, nomination or whatever way to become a member and will governments have a say in this? We recommend that their substantial meeting minutes of the advisory committees be regularly published on webpages to let all women know what advice they are providing and to let all women access the members of these advisory committees it is necessary to announce their names and contact data (E-mail-Address).
  • What is the role of the National Committees of UN Women: Can UN Women on the international or regional level make sure that they are clearly mandated and do not have the same roles as other NGOs and do not compete with them? Shall they be the ‘voice’ of NGOs? What is their mandate in contrast to the UN Advisory Committees? What is their role, what their rights and duties towards member states governments and towards NGOs? We recommend that these be clearly defined.
  • We recommend that UN Women make use of resources more effectively in our North America/ Europe regions by advising governments in the regions to mutually en-gender all existing programs, budget lines and articles and link them strongly to the mandate of UN Women:
  • programs designed for Gender Equality/ temporary special measures according to CEDAW Art 4.1. in the region and
  • all other regular financed policy and project programs
  • UN Women should ensure that they are all engendered with gender and human rights criteria, gender targets and gender indicators to make them gender responsive. UN Women can advise governments to install and use gender mainstreaming and budgeting, gender methodology to enhance its policies, programs and budgets for becoming an comprehensive and successful framework which works with all means for gender equality and women’s human rights. This would create a synergy among NGOs and would strengthen the work to carry out these programs. A comprehensive gender approach would not only define measures and the work carrying out this programs but would empower them to access all the programs as gender-dedicated resources and fields of activities.
  • UN Women could insist on an comprehensive gender approach which would not only define measures, project calls and the programs purpose gender responsive but would install gender criteria, gender targets and gender indicators as an evaluation mechanism in the budget which provides the programs (local, national and regional governmental institutions, international organizations, private sector, donors) so to support the implementation and enforcement of gender budgeting.  UN Women could advise governments and the EU to design gender responsive crisis packages and stimulus programs with equal access to them for women, and measure the impact.
  • UN Women could formulate criteria as conditions of the basis of the negotiations about member states donations for its fund and budget – Some donors or governmental budgets need other keywords to be able to spend: NGOs can sometimes give advice as to the criteria and basis for UN Women to take money from a specific member state. UN Women should have a minimum standard to determine from which state they are willing to take a contribution to their budget.  If a state does not fulfill a stated minimum standard of women’s human rights and gender equality prevention, protection, provision and persecution, UN Women should resist the member state’s donor offers.
  • We recommend that UN Women, in order to enhance access to the UN and all its agencies, documents and dialogues and especially UN Women‘s information, use more than the six UN languages, since basic education of women in the world does not necessarily cover any one of them thus ensuring they have no access at all to the UN system and to UN Women‘s efforts in behalf of the empowerment of women . We want to see an inclusive UN Women and avoid a UN Women which is exclusive.
  • UN Women might look for a partnership with member states and UNESCO in this regard and can possibly contribute to improving the language situation / language accessibility within the UN and among the people of the world in general, women and men, by doing so. Even in our regions of North America and Europe not many UN member states publish and distribute UN documents in the national major languages, minority languages, indigenous languages, Braille or  audio/video documents for illiterate individuals. Maybe UN Women can support states to find ways to do so. This would support the NGOs wishes and work as well.  Additionally,  member states do not invest in awareness raising measures on the developments, documents, negotiations and agreed conclusions of the CSW or other commissions and bodies of the UN.  Not even all the documents of the nine UN Human Rights Treaties are always accessible on national levels, not to mention the local level in the divers languages spoken by women of all ages and men of all ages in the various countries.  And this although member states have ratified, e.g. CEDAW et al. and its optional protocol, which contains a duty to publish all documents in the languages of the populations of the member states.
  • For the next year’s open consultation exchange space – which we strongly wish – we recommend that UN Women arrange a longer event so that the enormous variety and number of NGOs can have the floor in a way to really communicate in an open and substantial dialogue with UN Women representatives.  Time is a costly resource for women. When we have traveled from so far and invested time and funds in participation in the CSW we should have  an exchange time with UN WOMEN which allows all in an equal way and according to the weight of the causes to express opinions, to inform UN Women of our causes, share our concerns in an equal manner and receive answers and information from UN Women. We should mutually care about the design of the exchange space: enough time, a parity of time; no one’s message and voice should be left behind.
  • We suggest that you announce the order of the day/agenda at least a week before on your webpage or send it through the NGO/CSW Chair to the NGOs attending because this time in advance there was a little confusion about the intended content of the dialogue and the few persons who know a bit about it could not distribute any real facts.

 

 

Following the CSOs consultation meeting with UN Women, on behalf of FEMNET, I (Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director of FEMNET) would like to contribute in responding to the questions posed by UN Women.

  • How can UN women and Civil Society Organisations work together to set the global development agenda? UN Women and Civil Society Organisations need to work in close collaboration in order to set the global development that is meaningful to majority of women. Women’s Organisations in particular must be consulted and actively involved in the process of setting the global Development agenda post MDGs.  The consultations should involve diverse women’s rights organisations including rural women, young women, marginalized women and many other categories of women. 
  • What are the structures that need to be in place?  The structures that need to be in place include the following;
  • Civil Society Advisory councils: these need to be strong at all levels including at global, regional and national levels. Women’s rights organisations must play a strong role in setting them up. UN Women must have strong mechanisms to follow up and link with the work of the Advisory Councils. These Advisory councils should include a diverse representative of civil society.
  • Establishment of Thematic working groups at regional and global levels as accountability mechanisms.
  • Support Women’s rights Organisations to participate in the Executive Board governing UN Women.
  • What are the linkages? UN Women offices at different levels need to work in close collaboration with the Civil Society Organisations at the same levels. For example UN Women regional offices need to work with CSOs working at the regional level, and it should be the same for both the national and global level offices.

The following statements were produced after the meeting with Michelle Bachelet on 3 March 2012:

CSW 56 North America Europe Caucus Feedback & Recommendations of UN WOMEN

Statement from LAC Caucus

Oral statement of the Asia Pacific Region made by the Asia Pacific Women’s Watch

FEMNET Statement