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aniBy Ani Colekessian*

What is the CSW, What are the MDGs and What’s this Post-2015 Agenda all about?

In a few short days, United Nations (UN) government delegates will convene in New York City for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to discuss “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the MDGs for women and girls.”

…So what does that mean exactly?

I won’t bore you with all of the historical details – you can catch-up on the last 67 years of CSW here – but let’s talk about what this year’s Commission and the MDGs have to do with young women.

englishWhile the CSW is still very much a government event, it also happens to be one of the largest annual convenings of feminist and women’s rights advocates and an important opportunity to inform, advocate and mobilize around women’s equality and the issues that feed into equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Knowledge building, advocacy and negotiation: it all happens here. Side events bring together different perspectives with speakers from grassroots activists to philanthropists and parliamentarians, while formal and informal meetings with government delegates give advocates the opportunity to raise awareness of important issues that affect women and girls everyday. This means that if successful, advocates can influence the language (wording) of the final “Agreed Conclusions” between governments on women’s rights and gender equality. This is important because governments can be held accountable to these conclusions. Check out past Agreed Conclusions here (you might also find something interesting about 2012).

But how do advocates actually influence Agreed Conclusions?

Last year’s Commission was a great example of what we can do: women’s rights and feminist groups mobilized to advocate for the first ever reference by the CSW to (wait for it, here comes another acronym) Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD), the particular risks they face and the need to support and protect WHRDs.

english 2This meant that rights groups had to first agree among themselves on the wording needed to support their advocacy and then meet with government delegates to discuss the importance of supporting that language. If successful, government delegates will suggest the language during negotiation (closed meeting between governments only); then it’s up to governments to discuss, negotiate and hopefully pass Agreed Conclusions that are progressive and clear.

OK, now we understand the CSW, but what are the MDGs? And what do they have to do with the Post-2015 Development Agenda that everyone is talking about?

The MDGs (or Millennium Development Goals) are a set of 8 goals, 18 targets, and 48 indicators for reducing extreme poverty. Each of the UN Member States (countries belonging to the UN) committed to these goals during the Millennium Summit in September 2000 and while there has been quite a bit of progress since, the progress is uneven with many countries unlikely to meet the goals by their 2015 deadline.

english 3Aha! Now the notion of “Post-2015” is starting to make sense…

You’ve probably figured out by now that with the deadline of the MDGs coming up in 2015 and still lots of gaps left in reducing extreme poverty, the “Post-2015” Development Agenda has something to do with the follow-up to the MDGs. And if so, you’re on the right track!

But not so fast, there’s more to the story…

The MDGs are only one part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The new agenda will include insights from other development and human rights frameworks that are wrapping up, including the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, (coming out of the 2012 anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – often referred to simply as Rio, for Rio de Janeiro) and the 20th anniversary review of the Program of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD or sometimes referred to as Cairo, where it first took place).

english 4Here’s where we come in

When the MDGs were developed, it was a pretty “closed” process without much space for input from Civil Society (individuals/groups not part of the government). On top of that, many women’s rights advocates were still working from the Bejiing platform, not realizing the role that the MDGs would start to play as THE development framework. Charlotte Bunch talks about this as well as touches on some of the history of the women’s rights movement (including Beijing) in her AWID interview on Vienna+20.

Having been largely excluded from the development of the MDGs, women’s rights advocates as well as other civil society organizations have been working hard to have their voices included in this new development framework (Post-2015). That has meant taking part in national, regional and thematic consultations as well as closely following High Level Meetings and the Open Working Group on SDGs.

And finally…something was mentioned about SRHR?

The CSW this year will be another opportunity for women’s rights advocates (including young women advocates) to engage with the Post-2015 process and hopefully influence language in the Agreed Conclusions that uphold the rights of women of all ages. That includes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The 20th anniversary review process of the ICPD PoA (referred to as ICPD+20) has come out with language that strongly supports SRHR, from recognizing the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to the provision of comprehensive sexual education programmes and legal abortion care and services. You can read all about what the review process has included and find the Outcome Documents (government agreements) here.

Last year’s CSW Agreed Conclusions recognized the need to both respect and promote sexual and reproductive health by protecting reproductive rights in accordance with the ICPD PoA and Beijing PoA as well as the Outcome Documents of their review conferences; for ICPD this includes the Bali Global Youth Declaration.

That means that the progressive language on young people’s SRHR (including young women’s SRHR) from the Bali Global Youth Forum should feed into this year’s CSW Agreed Conclusions as well as the upcoming Post-2015 Development Agenda.

So now see for yourself…

The best way to really understand the process is to jump right in! Check out this year’s CSW Draft Agreed Conclusions: this is the language based upon which advocates will mobilize and governments will negotiate to influence changes or push for keeping specific parts.

What do YOU think about it? Which language do you think is important to keep? Anything missing?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @youth_coalition with hashtags #Post2015 and #YFA – we’d love to hear from you!

Phew! That was a lot of information…

Between all of the acronyms and closed doors, following UN processes can sometimes be challenging, so hopefully I’ve cleared a few things up for you.

If not (or if you just simply want more), check out the UN Women CSW page and be sure to follow @youth_coalition from 10-21 March 2014 for live updates coming straight out of the CSW! You can also follow the rest of the Post-2015 process on the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR – last acronym, I promise!) UN Processes page.

*Ani Colekessian is a young feminist born in Canada. She is the Program and Communications Officer for the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR).


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