An Overview of CSW63

By Beth Blissman, UN Rep, Loretto Community

Beth catches up with Rev. Dionne Boissiere, Chaplain of the Church Center at the UN.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. As a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), CSW was established by Council resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946. 
This year’s CSW meeting embraced the Priority Theme of “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls “ and also evaluated progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions from the 60th session (2016) on ‘Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.The 10-day session included a ministerial segment with round tables and other high-level interactive dialogues, a general discussion, interactive and expert panel discussions and an outcome document. Stakeholders within the UN organized many side events to draw attention to critical aspects of the work on gender equality, and those of us who are members of civil society (the non-governmental sector) worked to organize over 400 parallel events that took place in four different locations in Manhattan close to the UN. 
Highlights of the week included three parallel events co-sponsored by Loretto at the UN, hosting a delegation of 30 students, Sisters, teachers and Loretto Volunteers, and a townhall meeting on 12 March hosted by Secretary General Antonio Guterres.  He reminded us that “to promote human rights for all…. gender equality is a central instrument for human rights…to ensure development for all, gender equality is a fundamental tool for development.”  

Also, I was particularly impressed by the leadership of two fabulous female role models who gave their all during the two-week process:H.E. Ms. Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), CSW63 Chair (Western European and other States Group) welcomed each person to New York City and UN headquarters. (She made me Proud to be Irish! ) 

H.E. Ms. Koki Muli Grignon  (Deputy Permanent Representative, Kenya), CSW63 Vice-Chair (African States Group) and facilitator of the Agreed Conclusions.  Ms. Grignon also endured both cyber bullying and telephone bullying as the facilitator, simply for doing her work facilitating an outcome document promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.   Tactics such as these are fear-based attempts by weak people attempting to break down the UN’s multilateral system that strives to accommodate different opinions and celebrate diversity.  Since such tactics are modeled by certain current elected officials in the US, it’s a key time in our herstory to challenge xenophobia and educate ourselves and others.  We continue to see that Women Human Rights Defenders are particularly vulnerable to reprisals, online harassment, sexual assault, death threats, murder and targeting of family members.
Fortunately, in spite of the bullying and harassment, the diplomats who were members of the Commission reached an Agreed Conclusion around 6:30 pm on Friday,  22 March 2019. Amidst sighs of relief and excitement, the NGO representatives in attendance filled up the balcony of Conference Room 4 and attended the opening of the 14th plenary meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. Here’s the webcast:


It provides a good global view of the current situation of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  We are still a long way from a truly just, integrated and sustainable model of development that’s inclusive of gender, environmental, and economic justice.  We still need to creatively push for policy every day that puts the interests of disempowered, marginalized and impoverished girls, women and their communities at the centre of policy concerns, ahead of the corporate agenda, and upholds the protection of their human rights. In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and ‘to reach those furthest behind first,’ we need to ensure better access to health care, quality education, skills training, and public services for girls and women. Here’s the press release from UN Women, that outlines that we are making progress:


In conclusion, however, those of us in the U.S. need to continue to shift worldviews, curricula and hearts in order to achieve inclusive, non-tokenistic participation for girls and women at all levels of decision-making – including policy design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.