The September 2005 World Summit - What's At Stake for Women

Monday, July 26 2010

Below is a brief overview prepared by a coalition of women's NGOs of "What's at Stake for Women" in relation to the World Summit, coming up Sept 14-16 at UN headquarters in New York. For those of you who are doing work to link Beijing and CEDAW with the Millenium Development Goals, this may be of particular interest to you.

The 2005 World Summit - What's At Stake for Women Prepared by:

The United Nations has been a galvanizing force for women in the past two decades, facilitating their efforts to define a comprehensive global agenda for peace and human rights, gender equality and women's empowerment, and poverty eradication and sustainable development. More than 190 governments have made commitments to this global agenda yet there continues to be a large gap between these promises and implementation at the international and national level.

From September 14th-16th, heads of governments from around the world - the overwhelming majority of whom are men - will meet at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the 2005 World Summit. They will be seeking consensus on a package of proposals linking peace and security, human rights and development with UN reform. Yet the United States threatens this process by seeking last minute, far-reaching amendments that would gut the proposals on sustainable development, debt relief and financial assistance to poor countries, and the environment, and weaken support for agreements on social and economic issues reached at past conferences.

Women have paid considerable attention to this process. What's at stake for women are the promises of equality, empowerment and women's human rights contained in the Women's Treaty (or CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), in the Beijing Platform for Action, Cairo Programme of Action and other widely-endorsed government agreements of the 1990s.

The following overview details the critical issues that will be on the table at the World Summit and their importance to women around the world.


Development Gender equality and women's empowerment are essential for meeting goals

Most governments and international institutions, including the United Nations and the World Bank, agree in principle that gender equality and women's empowerment are essential components for achievement of goals in all areas of development, including those contained in the Millennium Development Goals articulated by the UN at the 2000 Millennium Summit. In an effort to create sustainable development, governments must now go beyond words to take action under this framework. At the 2005 World Summit, women want governments to:

These strategic priorities are a subset of priorities governments have already signed on to in previous international agreements. They are the minimum necessary to achieve the crucial goals of gender equality and women's empowerment.

Human rights-based policies are a critical priority in a global community

The World Summit must address the systemic imbalances in the global economy that leave poor countries more susceptible to increased exploitation by powerful multinational corporations backed by rich countries. These imbalances contribute to the loss of local businesses and jobs, increasing the gap between rich and poor. Governments and international trade and financial institutions must be held responsible for their embrace of current neo-liberal growth-based policies that pay scant regard to social needs. These policies have been particularly disastrous for women as paid employment and social protections have become increasingly insecure, pushing women into informal and often dangerous work, and increasing their unpaid care-giving responsibilities. At the World Summit, women want governments to:


Peace and Security Women are central to conflict prevention, peacemaking and Peace-building initiatives

Women's groups strongly support the Secretary General's proposal for a new security consensus based on the recognition that all threats are interconnected and require a collective response. Women's groups call for greater focus on human security, conflict prevention and equal participation of women in all decision-making on peace and security issues. At the World Summit, women want governments to:

Peacebuilding Commission

The proposal to establish a UN Peace building Commission-to support countries in transition from armed conflict to lasting peace-has received considerable support from governments and civil society, including women's groups. The Commission could provide the UN system with much needed policy coherence and coordination for peace building. However, to be successful and effective, the Commission would need to draw on the knowledge, networks, and commitment of civil society to peace building and conflict prevention. The mandate of the commission should explicitly commit to partnering with civil society through formal mechanisms at headquarters and at the country level. The details for the Commission's mandate, composition and reporting lines should to be developed in consultation with member states and civil society, particularly national and grass roots women's groups.

At the World Summit, women want governments to:

A more democratic and transparent Security Council For the first time in 40 years, governments are considering Security Council expansion to increase its regional diversity and representation. The main sticking points center on which states should be included and the status of their membership-whether they should have permanent or rotating seats and whether they would be given veto power. There are even questions about the ethics of the veto power itself. Several conflicting proposals on Security Council expansion have been put forward; decision on these proposals will most likely be postponed until after the Summit.

At the World Summit, women want governments to:


Human Rights

A Human Rights Council that commands greater authority Throughout the Summit processes, the framework of human rights has been named as integral to the elimination of poverty and to attaining peace and security. Yet, in many circumstances, this framework is under attack. In order to raise the stature of the human rights system, the Secretary General has recommended that the UN Commission on Human Rights be replaced with a Human Rights Council with higher status and members elected by the General Assembly. If this reform proceeds, women want governments to:

More resources for human rights reforms and protection of reporting on existing treaties

Women urge governments to increase resources for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and in proposed treaty body reform. Additional resources to the OHCHR would enhance reporting and maintain focus on a range of human rights areas important to women, including social, economic and cultural rights. And although streamlining treaty body reporting could eliminate unnecessary duplication by governments, there is also a risk that states would no longer be held accountable to report on abuses affecting specific groups.

In particular women want governments to:

Introduce gender to the "Responsibility to Protect" concept

The World Summit presents the first real opportunity for world leaders to endorse the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a concept, introduced in 2001 as a response to the UN's failure to effectively counter mass atrocities in the Balkans and Rwanda. R2P would be brought into play in cases where a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert genocide or ethnic cleansing, thus over-riding the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of a state. NGOs are reluctant to push for any norm that includes provisions, however regulated, for allowing states to use force in the affairs of other states, as they fear this could be used by more powerful nations as an excuse for invading other countries. Women's groups have expressed concern about the lack of attention to women's situation in times of conflict, in the current articulations of R2P. If the concept is embraced at the Summit, women want governments to:


UN Reform

Strengthening the UN requires drastic changes in global governance A primary goal of the World Summit is to reform the UN system, which in large part remains as it was created in the era immediately following World War II. Women and other civil society groups are greatly disappointed that certain critical components to address the "democracy deficit" in international decision-making are not included. Women also say that, in 2005, it is high time that qualified women be appointed in equal numbers to high-level positions at the UN. At the Summit, women want governments to:

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