The First Week of the Commission on the Status of Women 49TH Session / Beijing+10: Defending Beijing, Confronting Conservative Agendas at the UN
Tuesday, March 8, 2005 12:45 PM

The first week of the 49th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) / Beijing + 10 came to an end last Friday. After a week of strong mobilization by progressive women and feminist organizations from all regions, and after continuous attempts by the US government, the Vatican and their conservative supporters (mostly groups from the US), the CSW session adopted a Political Declaration that reaffirms the Beijing consensus.

The US government used various tactics to put pressure on developing countries to gather support for an amendment they introduced to the draft text of the Political Declaration that was prepared by the CSW Bureau. The US amendment literally said ''while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion''.

The US government stated that they were ready to withdraw their amendment from the very beginning of the session, but did not do so till the very end of the week, creating a lot of uneasiness and confusion and trying meanwhile to raise support for their position. At the end of the session, the CSW adopted the Political Declaration by consensus, and a very few countries (the US, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua) introduced ''explanations of position'' as addendums to the report of this meeting. In these, they state their interpretation of the reaffirmation of Beijing as not producing new international human rights and as not recognizing the right to abortion.

The mobilization in support of the Beijing consensus done by progressive feminist and women's organizations and other like-minded organizations was effective in ensuring that the attempt by the US government, the Vatican and other conservative forces to question and re-open the Beijing consensus did not succeeded. It is very clear that in this session of the CSW, as in other international arenas, the US government continues with its policies to undermine the international human rights and multilateral systems, and to break international consensus on key issues.

Besides the Political Declaration, this session of the CSW is going to adopt several resolutions that have been tabled by different countries. The US attempt to undermine international human rights and defend their conservative agenda was reflected also in two draft resolutions they introduced: one on trafficking on women and another one on the economic advancement of women. Other draft resolutions tabled were: on Palestinian women (usually tabled every year at the CSW by the Group of 77), on Gender Mainstreaming (also tabled by the G-77), one on the Institute for Study, Training and Research on Women, INSTRAW (tabled by the Group of 77), HIV/AIDS (tabled by the South African Developing Countries, SADC), one on Afghan Women (tabled by the UK), one of a Special Rapporteur on Laws that Discriminate against Women (tabled by Rwanda) and one on Indigenous Peoples (tabled by Bolivia).

Although negotiations started on the texts of the resolutions on trafficking and on economic advancement of women, most of the negotiations for the resolutions will take place this second week of the CSW. Progressive feminist and women's organizations and like-minded groups have organized to prepare language and work to ensure that any document adopted at this CSW moves forward the women's rights agenda, and prevents any backlash by the conservative groups and like-minded governments in the UN.

The reaffirmation of the Beijing Consensus might seem a very minor achievement, but within the current political context in the UN, the reaffirmation is a key statement that the Beijing Consensus is alive and kicking, and that it is an important document that recognizes and advances women's human rights, including our right to freely exercise our sexuality. As progressive women's and feminist movements, we were able once again to hold the line.

Cited from: Resource Net discussion list, The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), 8 March 2005.