01. Introduction

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Every year towards the end of February or the beginning of March, representatives from Australia head to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York to take part in The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This gathering, held within the first quarter of the calendar year, is the most significant series of meetings focused on gender equality and women’s issues internationally. It is where governments discuss and strategise on gender equality and it is where participants have the opportunity to meet with representatives from governments; non-government organisations (NGOs); international non-government organisations (INGOs); UN Entities and civil society organisations (CSOs)/(CBOs) from around the world.

The Commission lasts for two weeks. Its main purpose is for Member States of the United Nations to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set  global standards and to formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

CSW works through a multi-year program of work which covers policy decisions around the 12 critical areas for women outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) and the Five-year Review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+5)(2000). The 12 Critical Areas of the BPFA are: poverty; education and training; health; the economy; power and decision- making; human rights; armed conflict; institutional mechanisms; the environment; violence against women; and the girl child.

The multi-year program of work is reviewed every five years in order to include and incorporate new and emerging issues. It is at this juncture, the five-year mark, that the entire BPFA is reviewed.  Member States are requested to complete a questionnaire on progress towards the fulfillment of the BPFA for the United Nations (coordinated by UN Women).   At the same time, Civil Society Groups will also review the progress their country has made on the BPFA and other outcomes documents.  This report is also submitted to UN Women.

Review years are critical times for assessing progress towards implementation of the BPFA internationally and determining the way ahead toward the goal of gender equality and women’s empowerment. An acronym is used to identify the cyclical reviews: e.g. B+5 (5 year review); B+10 (10 year review), etc.

Australian NGOs and Australia Government departments were actively involved in the Beijing+5, Beijing+10 and Beijing+15 reviews. In the lead up to Beijing+15, the Australian Government Office for Women undertook consultation with NGOs as part of a review of Australia’s progress towards implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Beijing Plus Five Outcome Document. In 2010 in the lead up to the Beijing+15 review NGOs ran an independent Australian NGO National Review of the 12 Critical Areas within the BPFA. The report from this review was shared with the Australian NGO community and the Australian Government, and the information contained therein was shared with regional networking organisations to strengthen a regional position on key women’s issues leading into the review.

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To be successful in advocacy strategies, it is key to understand the different processes that comprise CSW, and how to work with these to strengthen women’s policy, both nationally and globally. For more information, see Chapter 10: Advocacy.