Remarks: CEDAW luncheon July 26 2011
By Soon-Young Yoon, Chair NGO/CSW/NY
I first heard of CEDAW when I was working with the UN Secretariat for the Copenhagen conference in 1980. I remember thinking, this is an elegant—no nonsense document. We don’t need anything else—no Copenhagen Programme of Action or new resolutions. But I was wrong—we did need something else. We needed smart, dedicated people to breathe life into this treaty.
NGOs deserve some credit—for shadow reports and action back home. But today we pay tribute to you, CEDAW experts. Because of your intelligence and expertise, and the dedication of those who came before you– like Hannah Beate Schopp-Shilling, the convention’s Articles have become some of the most famous human rights tools in UN history.
Our organization, the NGO/CSW/NY is a 99.9% volunteer organization. And I’m not the .1% (point to myself). What I recently realized, is that the CEDAW Committee, likewise, works on a volunteer model. We are grateful for the long, and extra-curricular hours you devote—largely unpaid—during your 3 sessions per year. Former CEDAW expert, Charlotte Abaka told me that her patients complained that she was no longer available to be their dentist. And she said, –with some humor– that if she didn’t start working again, her own family was going to fall under the poverty line.
Together with CEDAW experts, we hope to take up the challenge posed by the creation of UN Women. But to move forward, we need to know where we came from. The intricate relationship between the CSW and CEDAW is nearly forgotten. Yet, as Pramila Patten is fond of noting, the Convention is one of the most outstanding achievements of the CSW.
This tie needs to be pulled tighter. We need to have a policy document in one hand and a legally binding treaty in another. Recall that one of the Beijing Platform for Action’s 12 critical areas of concern is ”Women and armed conflict”. Strategic objective E1 is to “Increase the participation of women in conflict resolution” and Strategic objective E2 is to “Reduce excessive military expenditures”.
What else can we do to strengthen women at the UN? First, I believe we need to build a stronger connection to the regions by establishing four more regional NGO/CSW committees in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Arab regions. Second, we need to get serious about using social media and the new information technologies. I personally commit myself to find new ways to use IT to share the good news that the international women’s movement is alive and well at the UN.
But in the era of global communications, you need attractive celebrities to draw the public’s attention. That’s where the Committee comes in. You are our stars—our heroines. We salute you.
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