ESCR-Net Engages in CSW68: An Overview of Key Events

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, April 30, 2024

During the week of March 11-22, members of the ESCR-Net Women and ESCR Working Group (WG) came together in New York to participate in the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68). Over the course of the week, the WG coordinated a series of events and strategic meetings, conducted video interviews with members, and participated in several joint activities with more than 20 WG members present.

Engagement and Action at CSW68: Reflecting on the Women and ESCR Working Group's Breakfast Meeting

On Tuesday, March 12, the Women and ESCR Working Group held a breakfast meeting to reconvene as a group, and discuss and share messages and reflections related to CSW68. This session 68 was the first fully face-to-face session since 2020 and comes at the beginning of a period of several regional and global spaces that include the April meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, the ILO International Conference in June, the Summit of the Future in September, the 10th Session of the Binding Treaty and the road to Beijing+30 in 2025 among others. The breakfast was also an opportunity to meet again and agree on possible joint actions in this space.

This year's CSW68 was significant as it brought together more than 100 world leaders and 4,800 representatives of civil society organizations, the second-largest attendance ever recorded at CSW. On the one hand, some member organizations appreciate that CSW, ‘is a moment to reclaim our feminist power and challenge the capitalist, neoliberal narratives and false solutions around poverty, development and finance’ said Sanyu Awori of AWID. Others welcome the opportunity to join forces with a global transnational feminist movement, ‘we confirm a global scenario where from Mexico to the rest of the world women are the most affected by poverty, inequalities and violence,’ said Norma Palacios, a member of the domestic workers' union SINACTRAHO (Mexico)

The following member organizations participated in the meeting:  Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development APWLD; Asian Peoples’​ Movement on Debt and Development, APMDD, Association for Women's Rights in Development, AWID, Center for Economic and Social Rights, CESR, Franciscans International, Fida Uganda, Instituto de Liderazgo Simone Beauvior ILSB, International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific IWRAW AP, Mena Fem, Sindicato de Obreros Curtidores de la República Argentina, SOCRA, Sindicato de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Hogar, Sinactraho, The Global Initiative for Economic Social and Cultural Rights GI ESCR and Mela Chiponda.

Side Events during CSW68

On March 11 a group of members and allies of ESCR Net convened a side event entitled: Rebuilding the Social Organisation of Care: A Key to Ending Women's Poverty. The aim was to discuss the fundamental role of decent work for care workers and the public responsibility of states in financing, regulating, and providing public care services and systems. The panel follows up on collective efforts from previous years when a group of feminist organizations, trade unions, tax justice organizations, and human rights movements launched complementary initiatives. These include People over Profit´s Rebuilding the Social Organisation of Care Manifesto, as an alternative way out of the global care crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, ESCR-Net stated that  A New Social Pact on Care is Urgent and in 2023, IDWF was part of the AWID No Care Economies without Domestic Workers Manifesto, initiatives that widely agreed on the critical role of decent work for care workers and the public responsibility of States in financing, regulating, and providing care public services and systems.

Today, global governance is set to address poverty and strengthen institutions and financing with a gender perspective at the 68th session of the CSW. It would be impossible to talk about women's poverty and dismantle it without touching on the unjust social organization of care in societies built on the coloniality of power and the intersectionality of women's labor extraction. Likewise, it becomes illusory to speak of care as a common and public good at the service of society, without recognizing the current trend toward its commodification, monetization, financialization, and privatization. These trends aim to turn care into a lucrative asset of private interest, facilitated by the capture of states in favor of capitalist accumulation.

A joint study by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky and Lena Lavinas entitled “Gender Bonds: Do they leverage or threaten women’s rights?“, presented to the experts meeting in advance of UNCSW68, confirmed the financialization trend. It points out that this form of gender bonds operates under the mechanism of a so-called sovereign debt, in which governments are captured for the financing of their gender equality policies, including care.

In this context, PSI, DAWN, ActionAid, OXFAM, CESR, GI-ESCR, GATJ, TJN, Womankind, FEMNET, IDWF, and ESCR-Net joined forces to call on governments to reveal the forces and private interests that are driving gender equality financing, including care and forcing privatization, to describe how the obligations-based approach of the international economic system should look to deliver and materialize the human right to care, to show how inclusive and more democratic global tax cooperation can contribute to the fulfillment of women’s rights at all levels and also to mainstream care-centered policies into climate action. 

In this panel, Norma Palacio from SINACTRAHO said that CSW is a space to share the realities of informal and domestic workers and highlighted that quality public care systems that transform the gender perspective and social protection as key drivers of real economic change for women. She calls for greater representation of women domestic workers in advocacy spaces so that they can first and foremost demand that paid and unpaid carers and community care networks are meaningfully represented in the governance of care. Norma called for strengthening transparency and accountability in public and private care provision and more importantly for reframing the economy as a care economy. There is an urgent need to promote a transition to a regenerative economy that guarantees care and substantive equality, prioritizing human rights and sustainability and investing in social reproduction, expanding the provision of and access to quality public services and countering privatization.

Feminists Challenging Corporate Power 

On March 13 members participated in the event entitled: Challenging Corporate Power to Reduce Poverty and Strengthen Human Rights. The panel was co-organized by AWID, ESCR Net, Franciscan International, and Womankind Worldwide as part of the Alliance Feminists for a Binding Treaty. Harmful business practices disproportionately affect women and gender-diverse people.  They cause and exacerbate environmental and economic injustices, and expose communities to displacement and violence, reversing decades of progress on gender equality. Worryingly, corporate actors are also being legitimised as primary stakeholders in all UN spaces. But without strong binding rules to hold companies to account, a private sector-led approach will entrench and deepen gender inequalities.

The side event shared case studies illustrating how corporate power affects women on the ground - particularly women human rights defenders - and called on feminist movements to push for the development of a clear and comprehensive international human rights framework on corporate accountability, including a binding international treaty on human rights and business. 

The event, attended by over 100 people, offered a space to illustrate how corporate power impacts women on the ground - particularly women human rights defenders - and inform feminist movements about getting involved in the UN binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations- as one strategy to seek corporate accountability.

It began with a welcome from co-host Pan African feminist activist Wangari Kinoti from Action Aid International followed by the participation of Vivi Restuviani from IWRAW Asia Pacific from Indonesia who shared perspectives from Asia on how corporate capture is manifesting in the region and provided a concrete case study from the region that shows the negative impacts facing communities, especially women and gender diverse groups); Kifaya Khraim from Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, Palestine referred to the context of conflict, specifically the documentation on Israeli settlements and forcible transfer of Palestinians; Maureen Olyaro, from FEMNET who informed about the irresponsible corporate behavior in trade policy-making based on their research looking at African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and Claudia Lazzaro from SOCRA (Sindicato Obreros Curtidores de la República Argentina) and ESCR-Net member, who presented the challenges for the advancement of gender equality in the context of the current upsurge of corporate capture of the Argentinean state.

Claudia Lazzaro invited us to reflect from a historical perspective, recalling the corporate responsibility in crimes against humanity that took place in Argentina during the civil-military dictatorship (1976-1983).  She said: ‘Corporate capture of the state in Argentina is nothing new, there are official reports that demonstrate the participation of companies in the repression, kidnapping and disappearance of workers. Investigations into companies such as Ford, Mercedes Benz and Molinos Río de la Plata began in the 1980s and even led to court rulings in 2002. 

In the framework of the 41st anniversary of the recovery of democracy in Argentina, several steps have been taken to identify and judge actors responsible for state terrorism. Lazzaro warns that there remains a need to politically position the growing corporate capture of the state and to uncover the effects of capture on the enforcement of human and environmental rights, and stresses the urgency of recording the forms of undue influence on national and international policy makers and public institutions.

She shared several examples of links between public officials and various cases of undue interference in the energy, industry, communications and health sectors. ‘It is no accident that neoliberal governments through the business lobby exploit workers, their bodies, their wellbeing and their health. There are officials in the public health sector who come from leading business groups in the health market who promote cuts in investment in public health, and condition unionized people in order to capture those workers  who have social security in Argentina, which is key for health benefits for workers.

In her presentation Claudia called for women's organizations and the feminist movement to join the global movement that calls for corporate accountability, denounces and documents manifestations of corporate capture that normalize state-corporate transactions, and warns of actions that promote the banishment of the gender equality agenda and wage a battle against the gains of the feminist movement.

She described the recent situation in Argentina where the new government denies the existence of the gender pay gap - although official statistics put it at 25% - and has downgraded the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity to a sub-secretariat, and recently announced measures banning inclusive language and everything related to the gender perspective.  ‘It is urgent that this CSW 68, which calls for a redoubling of funding for gender equality policies, shows how this new public administration expresses itself in relation to the international commitments made by our states against violence against women. Today, those who should be defending peace and integration are promoting hate speech against women and sexual diversity, demonstrating against equal marriage laws, the law on access to safe and free abortion, and budget cuts in programme Acompañar –which seeks to strengthen the economic independence of women and LGBTI+ people in situations of gender-based violence - and the Alimentar programme - which provides economic support,’  denounced Claudia.

In the closing, the panelists highlighted that the challenges faced today in all contexts range from hunger, poverty, inequality, violence towards bodies and territories, the intersections between the climate, financial, economic, and care crises, the exploitation of natural resources, armed conflicts, public indebtedness and the dismantling of the public sphere and the erosion of democracies. This context makes it urgent that the response be collective, said Claudia. The women's movement, the LGTBIQ groups and black women in Argentina are denouncing the wage gap, the feminization of poverty that has left women and diversities 30% poorer, employment programs for domestic workers have been closed leaving them without access to health and social security and where there are more than 43 thousand women and LGBT victims of violence waiting to be given the subsidy for assistance in cases of gender violence.

According to CELS reports, policies for the strengthening, assistance, and reparation of women and diversities have been dismantled: taking 43 care policies as a reference, 21 have already been dismantled due to repeal or complete under-execution, 15 policies are on alert due to inaction or lack of information, and only 7 policies remain in force.

Towards the end, Claudia proposes starting to talk about wealth, naming the economic elites that concentrate wealth in the world, and taxing the rich so that social and gender justice is effective and substantive. Our struggles must be collective struggles that do not disarm us. Just as we have said that our slogan is that the patriarchy will fall, for that to happen, there must be unity and promotion of Latin American and global action.

The event culminated with a call to participate in the global movement for a legally binding UN human rights treaty for transnational corporations and especially to join Feminists for a Binding Treaty (F4BT). This is a coalition of over thirty human rights organizations representing a broad and diverse global network of women's life experiences, shared analysis and expertise. The coalition has been working collectively since 2016 to promote a gender-sensitive treaty that attacks the structural barriers to corporate accountability and proposes measures for constructive change.