The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is the principal global policy-making body on gender equality at the United Nations. The Commission prepares recommendations and reports on urgent problems and general issues of women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. Every year, Member States (governments) gather for two weeks at the UN Headquarters in New York to examine what progress is being made globally on achieving gender equality in a given area (the priority theme). The priority theme for this 56th session of the UNCSW (UNCSW56) is “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges”. Each year the Commission also reviews the progress that has been made on implementing an earlier priority theme (the review theme). The review theme for 2012 is “Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.
Civil Society Participation
The UNCSW is open to civil society participation – in the form of observers from organisations with official accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Council. Concretely, thousands of representatives of civil society organisations, including trade unions, come to the UNCSW to monitor, evaluate and influence the outcome of the UNCSW meetings and the positions that Member States take on the issues being raised. In fact, the annual UNCSW meetings are arguably the largest international gathering of women in the world (with the exception of the World Conference on Women organised by the United Nations).
The Agreed Conclusions
The main outcome of the UNCSW is a set of Agreed Conclusions on the priority theme. Essentially these are an assessment of progress, as well as of gaps and challenges. Crucially, they contain a set of concrete recommendations for action by governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level. They represent the commitments that governments, in particular, undertake in respect of the priority theme.
The Trade Union Delegation
Representatives from four international global union organisations - the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI), Education International (EI) and IUF (International Union of Food Agriculture and Allied Workers Associations) – will work together as a trade union delegation during the UNCSW56 meetings. Our objectives are to bring the trade union perspectives and workers’ rights to the international discussions on gender equality. Working with other civil society organisations, we lobby for decent work, quality public services and women’s rights as preconditions for gender equality around the world.