Social Watch statement at the 54th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women


Social Watch Statement through its Host Organization the Third World Institute (which has ECOSOC status) delivered by Natalia Cardona

3 March 2010, New York

Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and 15 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, women all around the world still struggle for gender equality and respect for their human rights and freedoms. Despite certain progress, discrimination against women still prevails in all spheres of public life. The United Nations Member States still have not fully implemented their commitments to gender equality as an essential condition for sustainable economic and social development.  Furthermore, disagreements and tensions among member states and a crisis of unlimited proportions in global geopolitics and global governance have led to the muddling and compromise of basic human rights.

Social Watch is an international network of civil society coalitions in over 70 countries that have monitored anti-poverty and gender equity policies since 1995 (and its secretariat is hosted by the Third World Institute). The Social Watch reports are based on the findings of citizen organizations around the world monitoring their own Governments and the analysis and processing of international statistics. 

These statistics and regional and country reports show that notwithstanding some advances since the Beijing Conference and the adoption of CEDAW, the UN member States still have not fully implemented their commitments to gender equity as an essential condition for sustainable economic and social development. Despite these advances it is important to note that all around the world the women’s movement has expressed its disappointment with States slowness in delivering on their international commitments and to implement legislation, public policies with new and enough financial resources to support those commitments.  Furthermore, the concern is that those enjoying the benefits of such advances are in the minority. 

Social Watch’s Gender Equity Index (GEI) also uncovers a staggering wipe out of the economic gains made by women at the global level in 2009.   Many women are living under multiple forms of discrimination, based on the racism, ethnical discrimination, lesbophobia etc. and to overcome the crisis and they and their plight must be visibilized and counted in order to find true solutions to overcome the inequalities considering this multiple forms of discrimination.

Social Watch members across the globe report that the financial crisis along with climate change and the debt burden of many countries exacerbated these existing inequalities and that government responses to the crisis have ignored the need for a change in economic systems that goes beyond aiming for growth and formulating a few policies for women but requires the inclusion of women in policy making and the restructuring of the financial systems with new policies and a new development paradigm that includes equal rights and equal opportunities for everyone. 

Social Watch members also report that despite the need for state involvement in times of crisis government reactions to the economic crisis are actually cutting back on social policies.  These responses involved cutbacks in financing social services such as health care, child care, social protection and education in many countries.  These cuts in social protection funding along with the lack of inclusion of unpaid work in official economic statistics result in the invisibility of the real costs which women are paying during this crisis and contribute to the feminization of poverty.  Current tools used to measure the impact of the financial crisis do not take these aspects into account and therefore do not show the impact of the crisis on women’s human rights.

In this context the Social Watch recognizes that the uncertainty in negotiations among member states within the United Nations reflects a lack of accountability with regards to women’s rights that is pervasive and demonstrates the multiple shifts, cracks and crises in global geopolitics and global governance of neoliberal globalization.   These differences have tremendous impact on democratic participation and inclusion at the international level.  The UN needs to be reclaimed as the rightful space for the women’s movement to resist failed policies and programs and to work towards achieving rights based sustainable and equitable development.  This will require caution in proceeding with the gender architecture, a review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through the lens of gender equity and women’s rights and working towards a fifth women’s conference that leads to strengthening of women’s rights and not eroding the gains already made.