Skip to main content

csw61 agreed conclusions on women's empowerment

Madeleine Brecher, ICJW's representative to UN NY gives a brief overview of the Agreed Conclusions (Outcome Document) on the CSW61 Priority Theme; Women's Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, for the NGO Committee on the Status of Women.

The 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13-24 March, 2017 at a critical juncture in the changing political landscape and realignment of forces mobilized around the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda. 

Champions of human rights and the women's movement saw this CSW as a litmus test of the strength of international political commitment in the face of fresh challenges to the historic and hard won gains of the gender equality compact already secured. The priority theme of CSW61 was quite a pioneering one….

‘Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work’. This focus on the connection between women’s economic empowerment and the changing world of work encompassing women's right to work and rights at work, as well as the commitment to decent work and full and productive employment, is both new and constitutes a vital area in which governments must begin to set standards. 

The ground-breaking Agreed Conclusions of CSW61…the final outcome document of the two week session… were adopted by the Commission after over three weeks and more than 100 hours of intense and gruelling negotiations among delegations supported by UN Women, with civil society including veterans and youth keeping watch and providing inspiration, insights and advocacy.

The evolution of the text was interesting: it began a week or so before the start of the session with a 6 page zero draft prepared by the CSW61 Bureau (UN Commission on the Status of Women). Over the period of 3 weeks, it increased to 73 pages, down to 27 pages, then to 23 and finally, on March 24th, it was adopted by consensus at 17 pages.

CSW61 was an occasion to take stock of the why, what and how of bridging the gender gaps in the world of work decisively through the resolve, actions and investments of all stakeholders. Governments, the private sector, AND civil society are expected to do so in the following 7 action categories: 
  • strengthening normative and legal frameworks; 
  • strengthening education, training and skills development; 
  • implementing economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment; addressing the growing informality of work and mobility of women workers; 
  • managing technological and digital change for women’s economic empowerment; strengthening women's collective voice, leadership and decision making; and
  • strengthening the private sector’s role in women’s economic empowerment.

This year’s 61st session saw some of the highest numbers in terms of participation of Member States, and of organization of meetings and events. Representatives from 162 Member States, including 89 ministers, and more than 3900 civil society participants from more than 580 organizations and 138 countries attended the session. Additionally, NGOs had submitted 131 written statements to the Commission. 

A combined number of more than 600 events were hosted by Member States, UN entities and civil society on the side-lines of the two-week session; approximately 200 took place on UN premises while roughly 400 were staged by civil society NGOs within the proximity of the UN compound.

With the adoption of the CSW61 Agreed Conclusions by consensus, a strong sense of accomplishment, progress and sense of purpose was obvious. The exemplary role of the CSW61 Chair, Ambassador Antonia de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil and of the facilitator of the Agreed Conclusions related negotiations, Fatma Al Zahraa Hassan of Egypt were recognized and applauded. Several countries and groups of countries voiced their satisfaction with the results achieved, highlighting a range of gains they considered to be especially timely and pertinent, and a strong basis for follow-up action. There was also disappointment about areas where not enough progress was made.