Education International
Education International

Civil society refuses to be silenced at UNCSW

published 3 March 2010 updated 3 March 2010

The trade union delegation present in New York at the 54th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women(UNCSW) denounces the absolute lack of dialogue with civil society during this critical forum to achieve gender equality.

Jan Eastman, EI Deputy General Secretary, will address the plenary, raising shared concerns on behalf of EI, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI) and Union Network International (UNI).

Eastman will make a statement speaking for more than 200 million members from across the globe. She will express “their deep disillusionment” at the many roadblocks that unions and civil society organisations have been facing at the annual UN meeting:

“This year, at this landmark session of the Commission on the Status of Women, it should be a priority to seek input and feedback from trade unions and civil society. Instead, we have experienced insurmountable problems of access and engagement with the process. And we have been silenced.”

Many logistical obstacles have been reported; including endless line-ups at registration with up to 9 hours of waiting, lack of sufficient space to work, limited access to side events and no interpretation facilities, amongst others.

It is also of deep concern that the Declaration of the UNCSW already has a foregone conclusion, negotiated and agreed before the event had even begun. Furthermore, the 7 resolutions that will be passed have not been distributed, and therefore there is no opportunity to provide any input there either.

“We call on the United Nations and national governments to make social dialogue a reality, and we respectfully submit that what is taking place at this year’s CSW is not a dialogue with civil society. Clearly this must be remedied,” Eastman said.

“As the United Nations moves ahead with Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR), civil society and trade unions must be part of the consultative process in a legitimate and meaningful way. We stand here as members of civil society. The United Nations should be our United Nations too.”

The delegation also sent an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, expressing its outrage with the whole assessment process so far:

“Women from around the world have come to the CSW in hope of being heard, and have invested considerable time and resources to get here,” the letter stated. “They have experienced discouragement and a profound sense of disrespect. Most of these difficulties go well beyond the logistics associated with the ongoing renovations at the UN Headquarters. We submit that what has transpired at this year’s CSW must never occur again.” In the letter, the women unionists acknowledge Ban’s historical recognition of “the critical role of civil society in advancing women’s rights” and they expect he will address “the grave concerns” they are bringing forward to him.

EI strongly encourages its member organisations to visit and contribute actively to the blog set up jointly with the ITUC, UNI and PSI on the 54th UNCSW. Get informed, get involved and raise your voices for working women! unioncsw.world-psi.org