10.2 Some spaces for advocacy within the CSW processes and framework

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As explained in other sections of this Guide, the process of CSW is cyclical and action oriented around the achievement of the BPFA and gender equality. Further information on BPFA, CEDAW and working with other Human Rights Conventions, Treaties and Conclusion documents is in Chapter 12: Politics, BPFA, CEDAW and Human Rights. This section will highlight key spaces and methods for advocacy within the context of CSW.

To make it easier and to fit in the thematic areas of CSW, this Guide starts its description of the process 2 years prior to the thematic area being considered at CSW.

Figure 8. Spaces for Advocacy leading up to CSW Thematic Review
Figure 8. Spaces for Advocacy leading up to CSW Thematic Review

Figure 8 shows the two-year lead up to a specific theme in CSW.  So if we take as an example

Violence Against Women as the Thematic Review to be undertaken, When the 5 year multi-year program is released by CSW, two years before Violence Against Women is the Priority Theme, advocacy work should start on that theme.

One of the first opportunities an advocate has to influence the CSW theme is in preparation and gaining support for a solid academic or expert to present on the Preparatory Expert Panel (PEP) the year prior to the thematic review year.  Invitations to the PEP and the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) are issued by UN Women in consultation with the CSW Commission and at times Regional centres. Influencing this process is easier through regional organisations and networks such as Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW) and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW). These organisations have long and established links with UN Agencies; undertake programmatic work and research, and have broad and far-reaching mandate from their members and work regularly with the UN Structures.

Having someone on the PEP and EGM who understands the contextual issues of the Asia Pacific may serve to bring the issues onto the agenda. Following this, and to advance the issues further onto the agenda and into the Draft Agreed Conclusions document, gaining national and regional support for a presenter at the Expert Group Meeting may allow for the position to be further carried through the UN process. Limited numbers of NGOs are allowed to observe the Expert Group Meeting. While this may or may not serve a purpose for your organisation, certainly analysing the papers and presentations coming out of the Expert Group Meeting will allow you an insight into the shape of the Draft Agreed Conclusions, and will highlight the issues falling in the spotlight.

Preparations from here take a national twist. Use the information to narrow down your advocacy efforts into achievable chunks for advocacy at the national level, and work to develop support from regional networks to take the issues not already on the agenda to CSW. In Australia, consultation and development of a position on the thematic issue for CSW, one that is widely agreed upon by the Australian national women’s sector, could serve to support specific advocacy for the Australian government to take forward into the CSW arena. If your organisation is ECOSOC accredited, it can send a written statement to CSW to be tabled at the Commission. For indicative timeframes see Figure 8 above.

If you are working on the Draft Agreed Conclusions, then it is essential to draft language around the issue (see Chapter 11: Draft Conclusions and UN language). Suggestions on language should be submitted in writing to OfW by email; make what YOU want into what WE want.

Figure 9. Working the Space at CSW statements
Figure 9. Working the Space at CSW statements


Once at CSW, there are only a few days in which to get any language inserted before the Member States go into lock-down in the negotiations.

Australian Government Delegation has a negotiation framework that guides work at CSW. This agreed to by Head of Delegation, OfW, DFAT Canberra and Post and is not released publicly. The time differences between USA and Australia can prove challenging for those who are trying influence the negotiations but are not on the ground in New York.  Time differences between USA and Australia working hours are opposite (that is, while the delegation is working at CSW in the USA, the government is sleeping in Australia). This makes any additions or deviation from the negotiation framework challenging.

Once at CSW, work the space. Have a number of questions prepared to raise issues in the High Level Panels and Side Events hosted by Governments and UN Agencies. Present on the issue in the Parallel Sessions; raise your concern with who you can, when you can and where you can. CSW is an international space and there will be times when some groups tend to dominate in various spaces-this can be terrifying for some, and off-putting for others. Be clear and concise in asking questions, raising issues and stepping forward to speak. Use the space to take local ideas into the global context. Network: find out who you need to meet and how you can arrange to meet them. Listen to the Country Statements, identify a country sensitive to your concerns, if you get the opportunity talk with them, or seek out NGOs from that country and talk with them-Caucus meetings are great for this.

NGO Oral Interventions are short, succinct presentations to the Commission and Member States. Oral Interventions are no longer than 3 minutes in length and are often shortened on the day of delivery due to time constraints. It is difficult to obtain an intervention slot in the Commission. Invitations to apply for Oral Interventions are sent to ECOSOC accredited organisations 3-4 months before CSW. As there are limited slots in the schedule, preference is given to coordinated regional positions, and positions with a large consensus behind them. Oral Interventions are allocated paces in the Commission.

Figure 10. Post CSW advocacy spaces
Figure 10. Post CSW advocacy spaces

In recent years, blogging and tweeting has allowed NGOs to share their experiences with a broader audience. Some organisations have been successful in gaining support for their issues through this medium, and have been able to carry on the momentum of support through advocating for change at the national level simultaneously with advocacy at the international level.

Note: Political space for Government NGO interaction has become smaller and smaller over the last few years at CSW. This is partly due to the CSW venue and partly due to access restrictions for NGOs coming into the physical space of the Commission. Caucusing and networking are key avenues for NGOs to set up meetings with, or get messages to Government representatives.

The meeting held post-CSW is a time for Australian NGOs to push for further action on key areas covered in the Agreed Conclusions. Suggestions for concrete actions and strategies for rolling out the Agreed Conclusions in Australia need to be submitted in writing to the Australian Government Office for Women. Work with the government in pushing forward the agreements contained within the Agreed Conclusions and support ways in which to roll the Agreed Conclusions out.