At the multilateral level, we are witnessing increasing division, pushback on agreed language (especially on abortion and CSE) and failure to engage in meaningful dialogue which undermines consensus. This matters, because multilateral spaces such as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) play an important role in determining the mission of UN agencies, driving national level change and providing a framework against which civil society can hold governments to account.
This year’s CPD failed to reach consensus and ended with no outcome document. There was significant disruption by a number of member states during negotiations. Disinformation was a key tactic used particularly on CSE, but there was wider pushback on women’s and girl’s rights, for example, whether girls face more barriers to education than boys was also disputed. Several wider geopolitical tensions also had an influence over the process. Previously agreed language presented as a Chairs text was not accepted in the final stages of negotiation.
“At the heart of pushback on SRHR is the control over women’s bodies and their autonomy”
Participation was not optimal: Positions of some member states revealed disconnect between the Mission in New York, and domestic position at capital. It was also striking that despite the thematic focus on education, there was no attendance from Ministers of Education who may have been able to bring greater insights from national level implementation to the discussion. Diverse civil society and young people also struggled to participate meaningfully in the space.
Like-minded governments were well-coordinated and supported by civil society. As a result, we agreed that no outcome document was better than one which rowed back on global consensus language. Coordination had a positive impact and provides a platform to build on in the future.
It is important to note and reflect on the progress that has been made globally, nationally and locally on CSE. 85% of countries have policies and laws in place which support CSE and 4 in 5 countries have sexuality education within their curriculum.