This week, the U.N. will celebrate International Women’s Day during its annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The focus of the 2012 gathering is “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”
Prior to the actual convening of such meetings, the U.N. often releases a draft of the conclusions that are expected to be reached during the meeting—a kind of starting point for the delegates’ negotiations. The draft agreed conclusions for this CSW contain some good language on concrete measures that would go a long way toward improving life for rural women, such as equal land rights, greater access to financial instruments, and removing barriers to market access for agricultural workers and entrepreneurs.
The importance of such political and economic freedoms in elevating women’s status is well documented and best illustrated in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. Delegates to CSW would be wise to concentrate their discussions on real solutions and avoid sidetracking into debates over quotas and “gender mainstreaming”—high on the list of U.N. feminists’ favorite solutions to many a problem—which are also found in the draft document:
Ensure that strong gender equality units are placed at senior levels in line ministries, such as agriculture, and in local governments, and that these units are supported by adequate financial and human resources and capacity and authority to ensure that laws, policies, planning and budgeting processes, programmes and service delivery are gender-sensitive and respond to the priorities and needs of rural women and men.
Not surprisingly, the meetings of the CSW often resemble an annual feminist fest, drawing representatives of non-governmental organizations from around the world to strategize together and promote their agendas to delegates from nearly all U.N. member states. Additionally, this marks the first anniversary of the creation of U.N. Women, the U.N. super-agency dedicated to gender equality, which has largely failed to gain traction.
Regrettably, the Obama Administration is often eager to jump on the radical feminist bandwagon, viewing a whole range of issues from the angle of so-called sexual and reproductive rights. The delegation representing the U.S. at CSW this year is led by Ambassadors Susan Rice and Melanne Verveer—head of the newly created Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department—both of whom have spent their careers establishing their feminist credentials.
The Obama Administration has been making promises to feminist activists for years about ratifying the controversial U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a perennial feature of CSW. Nevertheless, it remains unlikely in this election year that the CEDAW treaty will be brought up for ratification in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. delegation to CSW should seize every opportunity to highlight policies and practices that have proven to alleviate poverty for rural and urban women alike and to avoid the monomaniacal focus on so-called sexual and reproductive rights that has become the predominant feature of U.N. women’s conferences.