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CSD NGO Women's Caucus


Women's Caucus Statement at PrepComm I

New York, April 30, 2001

My name is June Zeitlin, Executive Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), an international organization based in New York with partners all over the world. We have been asked to speak on behalf of women as a major group this morning. As the consultation process with women activists here for CSD9 and with our partners and networks who have not been present are just beginning to take place, what I will present this morning are our preliminary plans. I will focus on activities that WEDO is spearheading as well on some additional activities and approaches where consultation has taken place and a consensus is emerging.

Let me begin with a bit of history. UNCED was an important event for women worldwide, accepting their crucial role in achieving a different type of development—one that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and just. Chapter 24 of Agenda 21, entitled ‘Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development’ acknowledges the need to involve women and gender at all levels. Other chapters also reflect the integration of gender aspects. The extent of the involvement of women was one of the most important aspects of UNCED. In order to ensure their issues were addressed, women organized regionally and globally and pushed for stronger gender language in all official documents and gender balance in participation throughout the conference process.

Women entered the UNCED process with their own comprehensive and integrated vision that emerged from WEDO-organized First Women’s World Congress for a Healthy Planet, attended by 1500 women from 83 countries. The congress adopted its own platform—Women’s Action Agenda 21. Women’s Action Agenda 21 covers issues of governance and decision-making; environmental ethics and accountability; militarism; global economic issues such as trade and debt; poverty, land rights and food security; women’s rights, reproductive health, and health and environment; biodiversity and biotechnology; energy; science and technology; women’s consumer power; and information and education. While the framework and approach may be a bit different today, these remain critical challenges to achieving sustainable development from a gender perspective.

That is why WEDO, partnering with other women’s organizations in different parts of the world, intends to undertake a major review and revision of Women’s Action Agenda 21, consulting widely throughout the preparatory process. We intend to launch Women’s Action Agenda 2002 in Johannesburg. The Agenda will serve as a vision for the future and a document of principles that women and men worldwide could both contribute to and use for their own advocacy globally in Johannesburg and nationally and locally with their own governments.

Here I think I can speak confidently on behalf of women globally—our commitment to sustainable development is premised on a broad and integrated approach, one that includes apart from the ecological, also the social and economic dimensions development and specifically gender equality. Thus, women believe it is very important that Earth Summit 2002 build on the outcomes and achievements of the previous UN World Conferences and their 5-year reviews, including the Human Rights Conference (Vienna), ICPD (Cairo), the Women’s Conference (Beijing), the Social Summit (Copenhagen), and Habitat (Istanbul).

In addition, we urge a close linkage with the High Level Meeting of Financing for Development—its next PrepCom begins later this week. WEDO, along with the ICFTU, the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Team and women’s organizations from many parts of the world, have been working to bring a gender perspective to these discussions. And I think it is worth noting here that in the very first statement that the Women’s Caucus presented we noted that when we talk about financing for development —it must be sustainable development.

This integration and linkage should be reflected in the content and process of Earth Summit 2002. The agendas of the CSD for the last several years have been narrow, focusing on only a few topics. While this allows for in-depth consideration and discussion, it has failed to highlight the critical linkages between and across all of these issues. We would urge that priority consideration be given to these inter-linkages and crosscutting concerns of gender equality, poverty eradication and environmental justice.

In terms of processes, we urge the use of multistakeholder dialogues and discussions throughout. Therefore, we are strongly opposed to locating in separate spaces the governmental and nongovernmental events—despite best efforts at transportation it will inevitably impede and limit access to government delegates and discussions. Moreover, separating major groups into different locations will further bifurcate the process and undermine the entire multistakeholder process. We recognize the practical and logistical concerns—but having come through Beijing and the Huairou settings, women view with great skepticism such separate meetings. Also in Rio this was a problem.

We are proposing that if there are to be separate venues that these venues be dedicated to the crosscutting themes and concerns of the major groups, so that each venue provides the opportunity for interaction and collaboration—not separation—between the major groups and the government delegations.

During the last weeks, we as women activists have begun to organize ourselves and plan our work going forward. WEDO will convene the women’s caucus at the global UN meetings. And partners from each region will determine how to organize themselves into regional focal points. In some regions, such as Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and in the US, women’s organizations plan to organize regional conferences, focusing on the Earth Summit and engendering Local Agenda 21. In addition, women will organize themselves around issues across regions using existing networks such as Energia around gender and energy as one example.

We will be seeking to work with the women’s groups in South Africa as they prepare for the Summit and to support their efforts to advance a gender agenda and showcase women’s projects in the region, as part of the Summit activities. We also will be promoting gender balance among NGO participants at the regional and global meetings and hope to consult widely with women at these events. We will continue to use the very informative UNED csd women listserv and website for the further mobilization of women worldwide, and agreed to share our databases to enable further networking and mobilization on particular issues and in the regions.

We all should be working towards having significant participation of women at the regional prepcoms, as well as the international ones, not only at NGO levels but also in the official delegations.

We also intend to work with other UN bodies to advance the gender agenda. For example, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will be focusing in its meeting 2002 on poverty and environment. A large number of women’s organizations—almost 1000—attend these meetings every year so it will be an important opportunity to generate further NGO involvement and also expert discussion on the linkages between gender, poverty and environment.

I think women’s dreams for ourselves and all humanity are still best described by WEDO’s founder—who will be sorely missed as we prepare for this ten year review—Bella Abzug:

"Women do not want to be mainstreamed into the polluted stream. We want to clean the stream and transform it into a fresh and flowing body. One that moves in a new direction—a world at peace, that respects human rights for all, renders economic justice and provides a sound and healthy environment."