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From the Frontlines of CSW 62, Part 7: Negotiated Language and Disconnection from Realities

March 20, 2018 pablo (11)

This is the seventh part of a series of blogposts from our engagement with the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW62)  taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City. Read the first part here, second part here, third part here, the fourth part here, the fifth part here, and the sixth part here.

The second week of CSW62 is marked by informal consultations for the ‘Agreed Conclusions[1]’. The consultations are essentially negotiations among the member states to ensure that the language or the text of their interest make it to the final ‘Agreed Conclusions’. The Conclusions, if adopted at the end of CSW62, will serve as an agreed outcome document with commitments endorsed by the member states. Despite non-binding in nature, the Agreed Conclusions are nonetheless important for us; as women, young people and human right activists and advocates. Based on the Conclusions, we can demand policy adoption and reformation at the national level and hold our states accountable to their commitments. It is therefore crucial that the Conclusions are strong with progressive languages, especially on issues of human rights, gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

However, getting our member states (or THE negotiators) to agree on the progressive languages is the biggest battle we as women, young people and human rights organisations are fighting at the moment. This is especially true when it comes to language in support of SRHR such as sexuality, diversity (including LGBTIQ), families, safe abortion, and comprehensive sexuality education.

Unfortunately when it comes to these issues, the oppositions are outrageously strong. Lack of political will towards universal access to SRHR, with the exception of few countries, is obvious in the ongoing negotiations, no thanks to the very conservative influence inside the negotiation spaces. The big push for retaining ‘sovereignty’ clauses are some examples of the blatant moves countries use to oppose SRHR in their respective countries in case any languages on SRH and RR (in accordance with ICPD) finally make it to the Agreed Conclusions.

Asian countries present at the CSW62 are negotiating on behalf of their individual countries and not as regional /sub-regional blocks; only a few such as Philippines is speaking up in proposing progressive language. The rest of the countries from Asia are unfortunately speaking up in opposition of SRHR. What is more disturbing to observe in the current negotiations is the silence of the countries who are hailed for having progressive policies and laws at the national level. This is due to, among others, the lack of coordination between the capital and mission.

A disconnect between decision making at the international spaces and ground realities can be damaging at many levels. There is a risk of losing even the little gains we have had in the past in regards to SRHR if the regressive languages take precedence in the Agreed Conclusions.  This will have rippling effects on the lives of many – especially marginalised people – as their basic human rights continue to be at risk.

CSOs – especially those who are representing women, young people and human rights organisations – are the bridge that connects the lived realities of people on the ground with international processes such as CSW, where decisions that invariably affects their lives are being made. The CSOs are either the evidence themselves or representations of the evidence that should inform the language of the Agreed Conclusion that are being negotiated. If the members states are seriously committed to achieving any development goals, they should listen to the CSOs. The very fact that these negotiations takes place behind closed doors or where CSO are allowed only as silent observers certainly goes against the old adage, ‘nothing about us without us.’

The language of Agreed Conclusion SHOULD reflect realities of the people; otherwise they will only serve the selected few and get us nowhere. Having progressive languages in the policy documents is the first step towards the change that we are seeking.

Still, in the midst of shrinking spaces for CSOs, and the palpable tension for fear of watered down language on the Agreed Conclusion, we will remain steadfast in making sure that our voices are loud and clear, and are heard throughout the advocacy avenues!

Biplabi Shrestha,

Programme Manager, Building New Constituencies for SRHR,

ARROW

 

[1] The principal output of the CSW is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. Agreed conclusions contain an analysis of the priority theme and a set of concrete recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level. In addition to the agreed conclusions, the Commission also adopts a number of resolutions on a range of issues. http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/outcomes 

 

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