CSW produces a number of outcomes. These are:
- Country Statements (an annual update on progress and challenges presented by States).
- Agreed Conclusions on the Priority Theme. (In a BPFA Review year, the outcomes document is a Political Declaration)
- A Moderator ‘s Summary on the Review Theme.
- A number of Resolutions on a range of issues; including the situation of, and assistance to Palestinian women; and women, the girl child; and HIV and AIDS.
- A celebration of International Women’s Day.
Country Statements: In the first week of the annual sessions of CSW, Member States are invited to present their country’s report on gender equality. These reports highlight key actions by countries towards the achievement of the CSW Theme and gender equality; many highlight key challenges still remaining in the achievement of gender equality. These Member State Country Statements are national government statements and therefore no consultation occurs with civil society in their preparation. NGOs hearing the Country Statements can reflect on key issues of interest and may identify areas of good practice around key issues and challenges for women.
Agreed Conclusions on Priority Theme : Policy investigation is undertaken into the Priority Theme and a moderated round table is hosted to appraise progress on the Review Theme (the review theme will be a priority theme in a previous CSW). These themes are linked to both the BPFA and the multi-year program of work. The Priority Theme and Review Theme for any given year is listed on the UN CSW website.
The main output from CSW each year is the Agreed Conclusionson its Priority Theme, except in a Review Year when the outcomes document is a Political Declaration. Agreed Conclusions contain an agreed assessment of what has been achieved, what more needs to be done, gaps and challenges, and they contain a set of concrete, non-binding recommendations for action by Member States, and can provide an opportunity for civil society, NGOs, academia, and research and funding organisations to work with their national governments to bring about positive changes for women. Agreed Conclusions can also be used by NGOs to inform advocacy positions.
The Agreed Conclusions from CSW are a fully negotiated text. Every word within the document has to be agreed by consensus. The main task for representatives from the Member States is to negotiate their position into the Agreed Conclusions. Australian Government representatives, with support from the NGO delegates on the Australian Government Delegation, are present at these negotiations. One person from the Government will be appointed to negotiate. It is important to note that only NGOs who are on the Government Delegation may be present in the negotiations. However, this is a government forum and process and NGOs while party to the negotiations, may not negotiate on behalf of the government, negotiations are conducted by Australian Government delegates or the Australian Mission to the UN staff. Although the Agreed Conclusions and CSW Resolutions are not international law, using the language contained in these documents can create soft law.
Soft law instruments are usually considered as non-binding agreements, which hold much potential for morphing into ‘hard law’ in the future. This ‘hardening’ of soft law may happen in two different ways. One is when declarations, recommendations, etc. are the first step towards a treaty-making process, in which reference will be made to the principles already stated in the soft law instruments. Another possibility is that non-treaty agreements are intended to have a direct influence on the practice of States, and, to the extent that they are successful in doing so, they may lead to the creation of customary law. Soft law is a convenient option for negotiations that might otherwise stall if legally binding commitments were sought at a time when it is not convenient for negotiating parties to make major commitments at a certain point in time for political and/or economic reasons but still wish to negotiate something in good faith in the meantime.
A Moderator ‘s Summary on the Review Theme : The moderated roundtable on the Review Theme is a series of meetings with government representatives to review a prior CSW Priority Theme’s progress. The outcome is a Moderator’s Summary on the Review Theme. The Moderator’s Summary is an informative document and can be used to further monitor progress on the Review Theme. However, it is not a negotiated text agreed by consensus, so is not an active commitment by the Member States.
CSW Resolutions are fully negotiated texts agreed by consensus. They usually represent issues specific to certain populations of women and can be useful documents to use in advocacy work and in addressing specific challenges for women in specific contexts. CSW Resolutions are viewed as commitments in the same way as the Agreed Conclusions.
At any CSW a number of Resolutions may also be tabled. The Resolution process runs in parallel to the Agreed Conclusions and only government representatives can negotiate in these areas. NGOs on the Australian Government Delegation may attend the negotiations as observers and expert consultants. Resolutions may differ from the thematic area under discussion at CSW.