Renewing Hope for the New Year
Dear friends and colleagues,
Let me first extend to you heartfelt thanks for your activism and support in 2005 and warmest wishes for the New Year on behalf of myself and the WEDO Board and staff.
We recall the many challenges—the natural disasters as well as the manmade disasters, particularly the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Bush Administration’s “my way or the highway” brand of unilateralism at the United Nations.
In March 2005, WEDO, working with the many women activists as well as ministers of women’s affairs attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women, beat back the Bush Administration’s attempts to block reaffirmation of the Beijing Platform for Action. At the World Summit attended by more than 150 heads of government in September, WEDO joined with DAWN and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and others to gain new commitments on gender equality.
Although the Bush Administration was able to block global progress in the important areas of nuclear disarmament, macroeconomic and trade policy, and climate change, it was not able to impose its extremist agenda on the world community due largely to the emergence of stronger, more activist alliances of civil society organizations and networks around the world willing to stand up to the U.S. juggernaut.
Critical leadership changes to come
In 2006, we expect some critical leadership changes that could well redefine the United Nations and its mandate. Most critical for women’s rights activists, and the peace, development and human rights communities will be the naming of a successor to Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who will end his tenure on December 31st. The new SG will face a crucial choice: To stick with the status quo that has virtually paralyzed the world body or to push it to reassert itself as a progressive, dynamic and effective force for world peace, human rights and social, economic and gender justice. WEDO is working with a group of NGOs to define criteria for the post and a more transparent selection process for the post. Click here to get more information.
Recently the former finance minister of Turkey, Kemal Derviş has taken up his new post as Administrator of the UN Development Programme (under which UNIFEM falls). Already an internal assessment of gender equality efforts is underway, a process in which WEDO will press for a major overhaul and commitment of new resources at the global, regional and local levels. Change is also coming at the UN Environment Programme, with Executive Director Klaus Toepfer due to leave this year. WEDO is promoting Hilde Johnson, Norway’s Minister of Development and Cooperation, as his successor. She was a finalist for the UNDP position and is a strong advocate for women’s rights and the poor.
Women’s UN advocacy
In this issue of WEDO E-News & Views we highlight the policy forums and processes we’ll be monitoring and advocating around in 2006, kicking off with articles on the implementation issues to be taken up at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) later this year and an update on developments related to the Peace-building Commission and Human Rights Council since the 2005 World Summit.
We highlight our local work with other U.S. women’s organizations in two stories: our efforts to stop the Ellen Sauerbrey appointment as head of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration—many of you will recall Sauerbrey’s hostility in women’s rights debates at the 2005 CSW—and the final forum in our series of “Women Engaging Globally” town hall meetings .
As usual we include links to websites and contacts so that you can access all the information you need to stay in touch and get involved.
Equal participation of women and men in decision-making gets the top billing at this year’s session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women providing the perfect opportunity for WEDO and its partners to assess the impact of the global 50/50 campaign launched in 2000. The 50th CSW session, to be held from February 27 through March 10, will also focus on “…an enabling environment for achieving gender equality and the advancement of women (in) the fields of education, health and work.”
President Bush continued his abuse of power when he sidestepped the Senate—the same tactic he used to make John Bolton the U.S. Ambassador to the UN—to appoint Ellen Sauerbrey as head of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). Bush resorted to a backdoor appointment in the face of a strong campaign mounted by WEDO and other U.S. women’s organizations, which garnered enough organizational support and media attention to stall her nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
When governmental, non-governmental and private sector interests get down to debating energy, climate change, industrial development and air pollution at the 14 th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-14) from May 1-12, they’ll be able to draw plenty of lessons from the string of devastating natural disasters that erupted in 2005.
In the wake of the United Nations 2005 World Summit (September 14-16, 2005) governments and advocates are now focusing on the follow-up to commitments made in September. At the UN, last fall the General Assembly focused mainly on creating the new mechanisms agreed to at the Summit, with delegations negotiating the structure, function and modalities for the Peace-building Commission (PBC) and the Human Rights Council. Advocates have been monitoring developments in both processes, pushing for mechanisms to ensure the full and meaningful participation of civil society not only in the negotiating process but, by extension, the operation of the new bodies once they go into effect.
The final Town Hall meeting in Seattle attracted over 200 people who gathered to hear state representatives discuss how poverty, globalization, and trade affect women worldwide. The meeting featured a panel discussion including five female state legislators and Congressman Jim McDermott attended and responded to questions from the audience as well. The meeting, one of thirteen, concluded the Women Engaging Globally series, a collaborative project involving the League of Women Voters, Center for Women Policy Studies, and WEDO.