I’m sipping coffee in the Vienna Café located in the North building of the United Nations.
To my right, an African Ambassador is conducting an interview on the struggle for women’s empowerment in Liberia. State delegations clad in colorful dress drift by en route to their sessions. It’s the third day of the fifty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and a potent moment in the history of women’s empowerment. Today will bring the official launch of UN Women and I’m sharing in this experience as a representative of Amnesty International’s Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group (WHRCG). The WHRCG is a newly formed consultative committee responsible for advising on AIUSA’s Women’s Human Rights campaign strategy in order to promote and protect women’s human rights around the world.
With the launch of UN Women happening tonight, an atmosphere of anticipation hangs heavily in the hallways, sessions and shared spaces. I’ve encountered both genuine excitement and optimistic realism in my conversations with delegates from member states. The number of NGO delegates in formal sessions is limited due to renovations of the U.N. facility, so not everyone is able to attend all of the sessions. To make up for this, there are approximately 250 parallel events happening simultaneously in locations near to the UN that delegates can choose to attend according to theme and interest.
On Tuesday, the first official day of the 55th CSW, I had the pleasure of meeting with Polly Truscott, AI’s Deputy Representative to the United Nations. Polly took excruciating care to share up-to-date information relative to the UN and AI’s women’s rights priorities. We discussed the issues most pertinent to the WHRCG priorities: I-VAWA, Indigenous Rights, CEDAW, Maternal Mortality and UN Council Resolution 1325.
During our meeting, I learned AI has is playing an important role in The Global Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, which has advocated over the past five years for the creation of UN Women. Now that UN Women is established, GEAR exists to monitor how UN Women implements promises it has made, works to see that civil society participation is formalized and ensures women’s rights groups are consulted about the program and future of UN Women. GEAR is calling for UN Women to implement an adequate system of consultation and is stepping up to say that women’s rights groups and NGO’s have not been adequately consulted on UN Women global strategy, as promised.
Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women and former president of Chile, has demonstrated exceptional commitment to women’s empowerment. Yet there is still critical work to be done. In the corridors, word is out that planning sessions on UN Women’s global strategy in the works, but no one is clear which women’s groups have been invited to be part of this process. Doesn’t the establishment of UN Women call for a new, collaborative paradigm? Isn’t the greatest strength of women’s solidarity expressed through sharing and exchange? Shouldn’t there be close consultation with women on the ground at such a crucial moment? When will their voices be heard? In the excitement and optimism of this historic day, my hope is that we do not lose sight of what really matters: ensuring accountability, efficacy and results from UN Women.
Make sure to tune in to tonight’s live webcast from UN Headquarters of the official launch of UN Women, featuring Michelle Bachelet and emceed by CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, with other distinguished speakers and performers.
-Written by UNA-GB guest blogger Alisa Roadcup, former Stop Violence Against Women Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International USA and PhD Student in International Psychology at The Chicago School for Professional Psychology. Roadcup is a delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women this week. She’s blogging about her experiences for Amnesty International USA, CounterQuo.org, and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston.