UN Mechanisms for Protecting Women’s Human Rights
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. UN Women is an amalgamation of four previously distinct parts of the UN system which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment. They were:
- Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
- International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)
- Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)
- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)).
The main role of UN Women is:
- to support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms ,
- to help countries to implement these standards, to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it and to forge effective partnerships with civil society,
- to hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.
The UN Women Executive Board is made up of representatives from 41 countries around the world who serve on a rotating basis. The 41 board members are selected on the following basis: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, 4 from Eastern Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 5 from Western Europe and 6 from financially contributing countries.
The current Under-Secretary-General for UN Women is Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
UN Women Australia (formerly UNIFEM Australia) is the National Committee for UN Women in Australia. It is an independent NGO that advances UN Women’s mission of fostering women’s rights and gender equality. It is one of 18 National Committees worldwide.
The Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action, agreed to at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, form a global agenda for women's empowerment. The Declaration and the Platform for Action are the international community’s most comprehensive policy document for the empowerment of women and gender equality. The Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW operate together to achieve equality and eliminate discrimination against women.
The Beijing Platform for Action includes 12 critical areas of concern and sets a number of strategic objectives to address these concerns. These objectives include legislation, policy and programme measures to be taken by Governments and others to promote gender equality.
The 12 areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action are:
- Women and Poverty
- Education and Training of Women
- Women and Health
- Violence against Women
- Women and Armed Conflict
- Women and the Economy
- Women in Power and Decision-making
- Institutional Mechanism for the Advancement of Women
- Human Rights of Women
- Women and the Media
- Women and the Environment
- The Girl-child
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is an intergovernmental body that forms part of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). CSW consists of 45 members elected for a period of four years by the ECOSOC. Members are nominated by their respective national governments and are elected on the basis of equitable geographical distribution as follows: 13 from African states; 11 from Asian states; 4 from Eastern European states; 9 from Latin American and Caribbean states; and 8 from Western European and Other states.
CSW Annual Sessions
Every year, representatives of member states gather at UN Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women worldwide.
At each of these meetings, the member states of CSW develop agreed conclusions about the priority theme set for that year. The agreed conclusions contain an analysis of the priority theme of concern and a set of concrete recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies, NGOs and other relevant bodies.
At the fifty-seventh session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on 4-15 March 2013, the focus of the session was elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. The agreed conclusions can be found at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm. A copy of the Australian Government’s Country Statement presented at CSW 57 is also available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm.
Commissioner Broderick attended CSW 57 from 3-10 March 2013, as a member of the Australian Government delegation. She advocated for the prevention and elimination of violence against women. She also continued the advocacy for independent participant status for NHRIs at CSW. During CSW 57, Commissioner Broderick presented at the 5th Annual Women’s Empowerment Principles Event: Inclusion: Strategy for Change, organised UN Global Compact Office and UN Women. She also presented at two Government Side Events:
- ILO/Australian Government Side Event on the Impact of domestic violence in the workplace
- Australia, Mexico and Solomon Islands Government Side Event on Engaging men and boys to prevent violence against women and girls.
She also spoke at 4 non-government parallel events, hosted by Australian and International NGOs including, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA), YWCA Australia, economic Security4Women, UN Women Australia, and International Federation of Business and Professional Women.
Commissioner Broderick travelled with Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, Chief of Army, Australian Defence Force and together they presented at UN Women’s 2013 International Women’s Day Panel: Implicit stereotypes, explicit solutions: overcoming gender-based discrimination in the workplace and a UN Women Australia parallel event on Engaging Men in Building Gender Equality and Ending Violence against Women.
Copies of the Commissioner’s speeches are available here.
The speech presented by Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, Chief of Army, Australian Defence Force at the UN Women’s International Day Panel, 8 March 2013, is available here: http://www.army.gov.au/Our-work/Speeches-and-transcripts/United-Nations-International-Womens-Day-Conference.
The fifty-sixth of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was on 27 Feb – 9 March 2012. The focus of the session was empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. The CSW adopted the draft final report but could not conclude its discussions in time to adopt the agreed conclusions. The draft agreed conclusions as of 8 March 2012 can be found at: http://www.ngocsw.org/blog/2012/03/csw56-compilation-document-march-2/
Commissioner Broderick attended CSW 56 from 27 February – 2 March 2012. She advocated for the rights of women in rural, regional and remote areas experiencing violence. She also continued the advocacy for independent participant status for NHRIs at CSW. She spoke at a Side Event sponsored by the Governments of Australia and Sweden, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Women with Disabilities Australia, Women Enabled, and the Women’s UN Report Network on Rural Women With Disabilities and chaired a Side Event sponsored by the Governments of Australia and Solomon Islands on the Impact of violence against rural women. Commissioner Broderick spoke at and attended several other side events and parallel events. Catherine Smith, a rural woman from Australia who is a survivor of domestic violence also spoke of her experiences in accessing support and justice in rural contexts at the Side Event, accompanied by her daughter Vicki Smith, who spoke of the impact domestic violence can have on children. Copies of the Commissioner’s speeches are available here.
For information on Past CSW Sessions click here.
The CSW can also receive confidential and non-confidential ‘communications’ about violations of human rights that affect the status of women from individuals and NGOs. The CSW considers such communications to identify trends and patterns in discrimination against women and to inform its policy development on gender equality. This procedure is not intended to assist with individual cases or deal with urgent situations where individuals are suffering continued violations. For more information about how to lodge a complaint under the CSW click here.
The Universal Periodic Review is undertaken by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It involves review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. Australia appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 27 January 2011.
The Australian Human Rights Commission made a submission for Australia’s first UPR review, which also addressed women’s human rights in Australia. The UPR Working Group made 145 recommendations to Australia, the majority of which were accepted by the Australian Government. The Australian Human Rights Commission publishes annual reports tracking Australia’s progress against the recommendations. For more information on Australia’s review under the UPR click here.
In April 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women undertook a study tour in Australia that was co-hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Government (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)). Following consultations across Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission produced a report summarising the tour and its findings.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children conducted a formal mission to Australia from 17 to 29 November 2011. In preparation for the mission, the Australian Human Rights Commission made a submission to the Special Rapporteur. The Special Rapporteur made several recommendations in her report on the mission. The Australian Government commented on the report, and the Australian Human Rights Commission also made a public statement on the report.
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, 189 nations agreed on a vision for the future in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The Millennium Declaration and the eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 are concerned with combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and gender inequality, and building partnerships for development. Poverty disproportionately affects women, with women accounting for a vast percentage of the world’s absolute poor.
Each Millennium Development Goal is directly related to women's rights. Societies where women are not afforded equal rights with men can never sustainably achieve development. The third Millennium Development Goal is to ‘Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women’. The goal is to be achieved through the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.
 The resolution on the ‘Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women’ was passed by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 10 governments abstaining from the vote (Belgium, Colombia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden).
 End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign, Women and the Millennium Development Goals, http://www.endpoverty2015.org/women, (viewed 20 December 2010).
 UNDP, Millennium Development Goals, http://www.undp.org/mdg/goal3.shtml (Viewed 20 December 2010).
 End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign, Goal#3: Gender Equality: Did you Know?, http://www.endpoverty2015.org/goals/gender-equity (viewed 20 December 2010).