United Nations Headquarters, New York City After two weeks of negotiations and tedious deliberations, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference ended in utter chaos, with tempers flared, faces red and nerves frayed.
Delegates were able to reach consensus on the issue of providing women with access to media and information communication technology. They were even able to pass resolutions on Gender Mainstreaming, HIV/AIDS, and assisting Afghan women. But when it came to the issue of violence against women, agreement simply could not be reached due to controversial language some countries supported and others opposed regarding religion.
The statement causing so much turmoil was: “Condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition, or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.”
According to U.N. procedures, all countries must unanimously agree on the language of the debated issues in order to reach ‘Agreed Conclusions’. If just one country objects to the phraseology, then there is no consensus. But when four nations, including the United States, objected to the statement regarding religion, the moderator tried to force consensus. Totally disregarding the desires of the dissenting nations and violating all precedent, he stated that the text was adopted.
Delegation heads protested. Ambassador Sauerbrey of the United States said that the United Nations’ failure to follow its own procedures de-legitimized the entire process. Finally, the Chair suspended the meeting with no Agreed Conclusions, informing delegates they would have to reconvene at a later date.
“If U.N. officials cannot follow their own rules, or take serious their own rulings, then this body cannot serve as an agency for peace and democracy,” said Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America. “It is merely an agent for empowering the aggressive against those seeking justice. This confluence of events, not seen before in the history of the U.N., could make the U.N. its own worst enemy.”