United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: despite hard international climate, a final document could be adopted

Published 2 April 2019 in:

Negotiations were hard and polarised at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Several countries displayed strong resistance to progressive language, not least in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Finally, however, conclusions could nevertheless be adopted, which may be seen as a victory for the multilateral system. But this did not happen without some protests.

The annual meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women took place between 11 and 22 March. The global climate is tough in issues of gender equality and human rights, not least SRHR. These were the initial premises when the Swedish delegation, led by Minister for Gender Equality Åsa Lindhagen, participated in the UN meeting. In the Swedish address to the UN General Assembly, Ms Lindhagen raised issues such as democratic participation, rights of LGBTI people, SRHR and trafficking. Among other things, Ms Lindhagen also participated in two different side events dealing with parental leave and SRHR respectively.

Negotiations on the conclusions resumed on Thursday of the first week. It soon became apparent that the situation was polarised and that countries and groups of countries often had completely opposed opinions on the text presented by the UN. Negotiations then continued for over a week, often until late at night.

Sweden negotiates through the EU and a joint position had been agreed ahead of the meeting.

Several countries displayed strong resistance to progressive language, not least as regards SRHR and sexuality education. The term ‘gender’ was also partly questioned. But the EU was able to take a progressive position, not least due to Sweden and like-minded countries.

Conclusions could finally be adopted. However, this did not happen without protest and the closing session was quite dramatic. Some countries had strong opinions on both process and content. One unpleasant incident during the negotiations was when the facilitator of the negotiations, Kooki Muli Grignon from Kenya, experienced harassment, both via telephone and personally, from persons who were dissatisfied with the document.