Countries Call for Revamping Commission on the Status of Women

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When delegation after delegation called for changing the way the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) does business, a significant readjustment in strategy was put forward Friday morning. Last year, controversial language that portrayed religion negatively caused the conference to end in bitterness and, for the first time, with no Agreed Conclusions.

Radical feminists are stinging from this failure to advance their ideology. They fear that attempts at new initiatives would allow for the introduction of positive views on motherhood and on men (not just as perpetrators of violence and power-mongers). They have held off planning a global conference to celebrate Beijing+10, the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Women’s Conference, where Hillary Clinton advanced her objectives through the Beijing Platform for Action. Why the delay? The radicals worry that President Bush will be in office in 2005, thus ensuring presentation of his policies. Conservative delegations, likewise, do not relish an international annual battle in a hostile system.

Discussing what the U.N. should do next year, countries generally agreed a major conference would not be helpful. Instead, the focus should be on implementation of past agreements.

Differences were over when it would be held (during CSW or during the General Assembly) and whether high-level participants (such as heads of state) should participate – both indicative of the amount of importance that should be attached to the Beijing Platform for Action.

The G-77 (a group of developing countries) proposed a low-key celebration held during the CSW annual meeting. Australia said the celebrants should share experiences and find gaps in implementation during CSW, as it is difficult to get attention during the General Assembly. The U.S. agreed, adding that a comprehensive review and appraisal should determine successes and failures, and how to better implement what has already been negotiated.

Exchanging ideas and increasing the level of dialogue would be a beneficial use of the CSW.

New Zealand, in a nonconciliatory manner, maintained that Beijing+10 needs to be highly celebrated because some countries are questioning the Beijing Platform for Action. The committee must focus on new and emerging issues.

“The sorry events of last year,” observed the delegate, “highlights the problem of the CSW, and raises questions of CSW’s value to the U.N.”

New Zealand insisted it would not agree to any document that does not “reaffirm” Beijing. This controversial position causes discomfort to countries that fear “reaffirmation” could be used to establish international customary law, the legal equivalent of forcing countries to obey the Bejing Platform for Action.

The European Union stated the focus should be on monitoring countries’ compliance, with concrete recommendations of actions, a position that radical feminist NGOs have been advocating.

China said a lot of objectives in the Beijing document are yet to be achieved. Panel discussions and general debates with high-level participants should look at problems resulting from unreached goals.

Congo proposed that the event include a brief overview of women’s struggles since the first women’s conference 30 years ago.

Iran suggested that a reevaluation of the Beijing document would help define obstacles to reaching its goals.

Last year’s contentious meeting may have done what nothing else previously has – caused the U.N. to evaluate results.

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse and Wendy Wright are non-government organization (NGO) representatives to the United Nations from Concerned Women for America. Dr. Crouse is Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. Miss Wright is Senior Policy Director responsible for international and life issues. They are in New York attending the 2004 sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women.

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