Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

27 July 2012 - Statement to the UN Economic and Social Council


27 July 2012

Advancement of women
Agenda items 7(d) Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system; and
Agenda item 14(a) Advancement of women



Mr President

Thank you for your leadership on these important issues; we appreciate your efforts to ensure a substantive exchange in ECOSOC on these agenda items. Thank you also to Ambassador Kamara of Liberia for her reflections today and her leadership of the CSW. We’d like to offer some reflections of our own on the Commission and its work.

The CSW represents the central opportunity each year for us all to hold focused discussions on gender equality and the advancement of women. Importantly, it enables all stakeholders to collaborate and consider critically our progress in implementing international commitments on gender equality. Critically, it also gives us a platform to build on these standards and pave the way for future international norms. The central role of the Commission in the international system is self-evident, as Ambassador Kamara has said. To ensure that it is given the best opportunity to adopt Agreed Conclusions, Australia would like to see negotiations begin prior to the commencement of CSW and well-ahead of the arrival of high-level participants. This is particularly important for the next session of the Commission, given the theme of that session and its importance.

Mr President

As we said at the time, Australia deeply regrets that the Commission was unable to adopt Agreed Conclusions this year – particularly when the priority theme addressed rural women who are amongst the world’s most vulnerable. This outcome did not do justice to the considerable efforts made over many months and even years by the UN, Member States, NGOs, UN Women and the CSW Bureau to raising awareness of the unique disadvantages faced by rural women. Above all it was a disservice to the hundreds of rural women – many of whom who had to overcome enormous challenges, including financial costs, distance, and time away from work and family, to participate at CSW, and who brought with them the hopes of rural women everywhere.

Rural women face particular challenges and pressures, and often suffer the compounding effects of multiple disadvantage. Global efforts are needed to empower rural women and girls to enable them to achieve economic security and development, education and training, to increase their participation in decision-making and leadership, and to live in safe and sustainable environments.

It is very important that we do not let the lack of Agreed Conclusions from CSW affect our commitment to promoting awareness and understanding of issues facing rural women, and to keep moving ahead on these issues, including by ensuring that decision-makers give greater consideration to gender issues in policy development, program design and implementation. We were pleased that the discriminatory barriers faced by rural women and other women in situations of vulnerability was highlighted in Ms Bachelet’s ‘Call to Action’ issued in the margins of the Rio +20 UN sustainable development conference. Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard was an original signatory of this landmark document.

Mr President

We welcome the initiative of the Chair of CSW, Ambassador Kamara of Liberia, to produce a Chair’s summary on the outcomes of discussions at CSW, highlighting the areas in which delegations were able to find common ground. There were many areas of agreement and progress, and we must preserve them so that further advances in these areas can be made in future. We also cannot forget that many issues critical to rural women and girls are not reflected in the Chair’s summary due to delegations’ lack of agreement on them during CSW. We need to ensure that in future we commit to securing outcomes on all issues that impact on gender equality, no matter how contentious.

Mr President

Australia would like to take this opportunity to also welcome ongoing efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into the UN system policies and programmes. We are grateful to UN Women, and the members of the Inter-Agency Network, for the actions that have been taken so far, particularly the development of the UN System-Wide Action Plan, the gender marker, and country team performance indicators for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Taken together, these represent important and overdue progress for the UN development system, and we call upon all parts of the system to engage actively in the roll-out and implementation of these initiatives.

There is much still to be done to ensure the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming within the UN system. The upcoming consideration by the General Assembly of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review will provide Member States with a real opportunity to institutionalise further changes in these areas, particularly with regards to monitoring and evaluation, and results-based management. Australia looks forward to working constructively with all Member States to build a strong consensus on this.

We also look forward to working closely with Ambassador Kamara and others in pursuit of strong conclusions of the next session of the CSW.

Thank you, Mr. President.