02. So What is CSW and Why is it relevant to NGOs?

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The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional and mandated commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This means it is a staffed and working commission tasked by the UN to undertake its work. It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. The Commission takes place over two weeks each  year around International Women’s Day (8th March) and each year approximately 3,000 representatives of governments, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) attend to discuss, advocate, debate and share ideas, resources and good practice models.

For NGOs and CBOs, it is one of the ONLY areas where there is the opportunity to interact with, and try to influence, global policy making.  CSW is one of the only commissions of the UN that does not limit participation to States only.  NGO’s and members of Civil Society groups form part of the State Delegation, and attend the Commission.  CSW provides an opportunity for strengthening policy guidance and developing concrete and focused recommendations on key issues to improve, sustain and accelerate efforts to empower women and girls.

The Commission on the Status of Women first met at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947. At that session, all of the 15 government representatives were women, giving the Commission the unique character it was going to maintain throughout its history by gathering a majority of women delegates.

Australia’s Jessie Mary Grey Street, was one of the original 15 members of the Commission.    (this is an insert box – discuss)

Globally, the Agreed Conclusions  from CSW are used by governments to inform their own policies, practices and guidelines. NGOs also use the commitments made through these Agreed Conclusions to monitor progress towards specific goals and in addressing specific issues.

For NGOs in Australia who work on key issues on the ground, the way that policy impacts their work will be well understood. For some NGO’s, the CSW outcomes documents are used to build soft law and assist with challenging issues within their countries, by working with international policy to strengthen aspects of national policy, collaborations and strategies may appear nationally to address the issue that may not have otherwise taken place.

In aid delivery and development areas it has been argued that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not occur without drastic actions being taken in addressing gender equality and women’s issues. Therefore, development agencies using a human rights framework in their programs may also use CSW Agreed Conclusions to strengthen some aspects of their own work.

Of course as in all areas, CSW is not the only forum where international policy can be drawn down upon to strengthen national policy and practice. However, it is the main forum for women’s policy.  It is a key space to advance women’s rights as we move towards the Post-2015 Development Agenda.