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CSD NGO Women's Caucus

Women's Caucus at the CSD Intersessional 2000

Report on Caucus Activities
Statement on Land Issues
OUTREACH Newsletter Article, 3 March 2000 
(other articles also at
Linkages coverage of women's caucus side event on "Women & Sustainable Development: 2000 - 2002" at


Report on Caucus Activities

This is a brief report about the women's caucus activities at the CSD Intersessional meetings held in New York, 22 February - 3 March. We hope this provides a bit of an account on what happened at the meetings.
Chief Bisi Ogunleye & Minu Hemmati
Co-facilitators of the CSD NGO Women's Caucus


As expected, there were few members of the caucus present at the intersessional meetings on finance / trade / investment / economic growth (first week) and on land / agriculture (second week). We were between 3 - 8 women (and sometimes a man) at caucus meetings. However, the caucus met nearly every day and also worked closely with other caucuses.

During the first weekend's preparatory meeting and the first week of the intersessional, we focussed our work on participating at finance caucus meetings and contributing to the papers and statements produced by the finance caucus as well as to suggested amendments to co-chair's draft reports (papers available on the steering committee website at

The caucus did a lot of work on land issues - incl. a side event (see below). We also produced a statement which was delivered in the official session on Tuesday, 29 February, by Chief Bisi Ogunleye (one of 3 NGO statements). Copies of the statement were distributed to delegates by the conference service while she spoke.
There was a good cross-over with the CSW session which was going on parallel, and Chief Bisi was able to deliver the same statement again on the next day in the CSW session.
The caucus also produced suggested amendments to the Co-Chairs "Elements for a Draft Decision for CSD-8 on Integrated Management of Land Resources" paper which was distributed on Wednesday. This was then discussed by delegates on Thursday, and a new draft which was circulated on Friday, was discussed Friday afternoon.
One of the major points the caucus lobbied on was to include the strong commitment and language from the Habitat Agenda (part. Paragraph 40b) instead of the suggested rather weak language on "improved access to land". The European Union and other countries took this up and on Friday suggested language from the Habitat Agenda.
The Steering Committee also decided to start founding a Land Caucus which started as a working group and shall become a Caucus at the CSD in April.

The caucus did also work on agriculture, particularly through working with the SAFS caucus and producing amendments to the Co-Chairs "Elements for a Draft Decision for CSD-8 on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development". We also used caucus position papers and the amendments to lobby delegates at the sessions.
Working with the SAFS caucus also included Chief Bisi becoming part of the SAFS coordinating group for the Dialogue Sessions in April.
The caucus also discussed plans for another side event in April - a luncheon event, probably on 26 April.


The caucus held two side events:

1. "Women & Land Issues", Monday, 28 February, 6.15 - 7.45 pm.
Although the event was in the evening, which is not as good a time as lunch time, and there had been no official negotiations in the afternoon, it was a great success, with 70-80 people attending, including many government delegates. We were also able to attract many people who were there for the Commission on the Status of Women. The event continued until after 8pm.
It was chaired by Jan Peterson (Huairou Commission / Women's Super Coalition).
Speakers included:
Diana Lee-Smith (UNCHS)
Chief Bisi Ogunleye (COWAN Nigeria / WEDO / Women's Caucus)
H.E. Prof. Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka (Ambassador from Uganda to the UN)
Selim Jahan (Deputy Director of the UNDP / Human Development Report Office)
Achola (UNDP Africa / Gender Desk).
The event was a very good linkage event, bringing together CSD and CSW NGO's and UNCHS / Habitat; it subsequently generated discussions about a joint Global Campaign on Women's Land Rights, linked to the UNCHS / Habitat Campaign on Secure Tenure. One idea is to carry on convening side events at upcoming meetings, incl. CSD-8, the Istanbul +5 1st PrepComm in May (Nairobi), Beijing +5 (June, NY) and Copenhagen +5 (June, Geneva) and subsequently at teh Regional PrepComms for Istanbul +5.
Further information from Minu Hemmati (, Jan Peterson ( and Diana Lee-Smith (

2. "Women & Sustainable Development 2000 - 2002. Commitments Benchmarked For the Year 2000 - Are We Going to Review ?".
This was to discuss the caucus paper produced shortly before the Intersessional.
The event was chaired by Chief Bisi Ogunleye.
Speakers included:
Alison Drayton (First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Guyana to the U.N.)
Minu Hemmati (UNED / Co-facilitator CSD NGO Women's Caucus)
Patricia Holden (Permanent Mission of the UK to the U.N.)
Diana Lee-Smith (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements / Habitat)
June Zeitlin (Executive Director, Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)).
About 40 people attended the event; discussions for focusing on review processes, their problems and obstacles, including the capacities required but not available to developing countries; and the need to pull the UN processes together again. (There will be a summary of the discussions available & circulated soon.)

The caucus papers on finance & trade, agriculture, land, etc. were included in the NGO information packs that the Steering Committee produced for NGOs. We also distributed copies of the papers and of the summary of recommendations as much as the non-existing copying budget allowed. With the help of the Habitat Office, we were able to distribute about 200 additional copies of the paper on women & land. The paper "Women & Sustainable Development 2000 - 2002" was printed in NY (with support from the British Government) and we distributed about 500 copies.

The caucus had 6 articles in the daily NGO newsletter 'OUTREACH'. During the first week, we pulled together articles suing the summary of recommendations - there was one on micro-finance (using Linda Mayoux' text), one on trade (using the Women's Caucus Declaration from WTO / Seattle), one on structural adjustment programs (using the paper from Dzodzi Tsikata).
During the second week, we had an article on land issues (based on the paper by Diana Lee-Smith, Catalina Trujillo & the Huairou Commission) (on Monday, before the side event on Monday evening and including an invitation to the event), one on reviewing commitments on women & sustainable development in Agenda 21 (based on the paper) (before the side event at Tuesday lunchtime), and one on priorities for CSD-8 (based on the summary of recommendations and the caucus work during the meeting) (we will circulate this soon.).

During the second week, NGOs had a meeting with the EU delegation which lasted about 75 minutes. We were able to ask questions and bring up issues of concern to us re the issues of finance & trade, land and agriculture. Minu Hemmati for the Women's Caucus brought up the concern about weak language on land tenure and women's rights, in particular. Delegates were receptive to the text being altered to incorporate existing international agreements and later asked for detailed references and quotes of paragraphs. Some delegates after the meeting also asked for more input on women's issues between now and CSD-8.

Statement on Land Issues

CSD NGO Women's Caucus
Statement to the CSD Intersessional Working Group on Integrated Planning and Management of Land Resources, 29 February
By Chief (Mrs.) Bisi Ogunleye, Co-facilitator of the Women's Caucus / Country Women's Association of Nigeria / Women's Environment and Development Organisation

Thank you, Chairperson.

Women's ownership, control and management of, as well as access to, land and property (1) are crucial aspects of sustainable development. Land as a resource has dimensions of ecological diversity and productivity for human sustenance. Women, like men, need land as a home - a secure place to live. They also need land as a means of livelihood - whether for food production or other type of workplace. Finally, and especially in a globalizing money economy, they need land as a form of wealth or capital.

With globalisation and the spread of the money economy, women are disadvantaged because land becomes capital. In most parts of the world, patrilineal inheritance customs have led to private land being in the hands of men and not women. It was established at the time of the Beijin conference (1995) that less than 1% of the world's landed property is owned by women, whereas in Africa women are responsible for 80% of the food production. Women's lack of equal property rights with men is a major cause of the so-called "feminization of poverty", or impoverishment of women. The lack of appropriate legal rights of women to land has meant and increased reliance on limited credit programmes to allow them to buy land. In addition to problems of legal access, huge inequities in access exist even in countries where women have rights to ownership.

Men inherit land whereas women in general do not. Women are disadvantaged where male inheritance systems are strong. This becomes sever in situations of conflict and reconstruction, where widows and single women cannot inherit either their parents' or their husbands' land and may be comdemned to a life in refugee camps in some communities. In paragraph 40(b) of the Habitat Agenda, governments committed themselves to "Providing legal security of tenure and equal access to land to all people, including women and those living in poverty; and undertaking legislative and administrative reforms to give women full and equal access to economic resources, including the right to inheritance and to ownership of land and other property, credit, natural resources and appropriate technologies." (2) In 1998, the Kigali Plan of Action indicated that "women should have adequate and secure rights to property. These rights must be equal to those of men, and a woman should not be dependent upon a man in order to secure or enjoy those rights." (3)

Chairperson, distinguished delegates, the question is now: What have you done?

In order to address this inequality, we recommend that the CSD:
* Institute measurable timetables and benchmarks for governments to ensure that constitutions and laws exist to guarantee women's equal rights to own and inherit land and property;
* Call upon governments to ensure that such legal rights are regulated and enforced, including joining the UNCHS / Habitat-led Campaign for Secure Tenure;
* Utilize the 10-year review in 2002 as a deadline for reporting on procedures undertaken, progress made, and changes achieved in proportion of land ownership by women and men;
* Call upon governments to support the following:
- Activities of grassroots and community-based organisations whose purpose is to improve women's land and property rights, in collaboration with NGOs;
- The dissemination of information on these rights in rural, semi-urban and urban areas;
- The organisation and finance of intra- and inter-regional grassroots exchanges concerning issues of women and secure tenure;
- Collection and dissemination of information on best practices in women's equal ownership and control of, as well as access to, land and property;
- Training of paralegal advisers with respect to women's land rights;
- National, regional and global workshops on women's equal ownership and control of, as well as access to, land and property, especially as part of the Beijing and Istanbul follow-up processes.

Thank you, Chairperson.

(1) Land includes buildings, houses, fields for agricultural use, pastures and other forms of productive resources that are immovable property.
(2) United Nations Centre for Human Settelments, UNCHS / Habitat, 1996. The Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda. Nairobi
(3) Peace for Homes, Homes for Peace. Inter-Regional Consultation on Women's Land and Property Rights in Situations of Conflict and Reconstruction, Kigali, Rwanda, 16-19 February 1998, UNIFEM, UNCHS, UNCHR, UNDP. This includes the "Kigali Plan of Action".


OUTREACH Newsletter Article

in: OUTREACH The NGO Newsletter at the CSD, 3 March 2000

Women’s Caucus Priorities for CSD-8 – some of them

The Women’s Caucus has been addressing the issues of CSD-8 in its background and position papers and held discussions at the Intersessional to further depth our work.
Some of our priorities regarding the CSD decision are:

We have called for reviewing gender-specific impact of Structural Adjustment Programmes as it has been shown that they in many adversely affect gender equity and social equity in general. We have addressed the issue of micro-finance programmes, cautioning the overall enthusiastic approach to micro-finance for women and calling for a review of micro-finance programmes’ impact on empowerment. We also hope that CSD will recognize the importance of traditional women’s credit & savings systems and support the development of rural women banks.

As CSD-3 had called for an evaluation of the impacts of the Uruguay Round, we call for a comprehensive gender assessment as an integral part of this. We also agree with our colleagues that careful differentiation between fair trade and free trade is essential. Social and environmental impacts of more free trade, particularly on poor countries and on women, need to be assessed. Governments need to retain the right to advance local, national, social and economic goals, including programs designed to increase opportunities for women in business.

Recognition of the fundamental injustice which exists in terms of women’s ownership, control and management of and access to land. We hope the CSD decision will not fall back behind existing international agreements such as the Habitat Agenda (eg Para 40b) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (eg Articles 2, 11; and General Comment No 7). We also hope that the CSD decision will not only repeat existing "agreed language" but move on to some creative discussions on practical measures to further implementation of women’s equal right to ownership of and access to land. The caucus has suggested such practical measures – timetables and benchmarks on reporting; and collaboration with women’s NGOs on information disemmination, legal support for women, etc.
On the issue of land rights, the Women’s Caucus has linked up with women’s NGOs around the CSW and with UNCHS / Habitat. We are planning a Global Campaign on Women’s Land Rights to be taken through the Beijing+5 and the Istanbul+5 process up to 2002. What we would like to see are measurable improvements in the proportion of women’s and men’s land ownership.

Again, the issue of land rights, women’s ownership and access to land is crucial. Support for rural women farmers is another of our major concerns. Their core role in ensuring food security needs to be recognized and their access to land, inputs, credit, markets, knowledge and training needs to be significantly improved. Existing programs need to be evaluated from a gender perspective and practicable indicators for improvement need to be put in place. We also hope that CSD will include reference to environmental health problems of women farmers (including reproductive health problems) and agricultural workers in general in its decision and recommend to governments and industry the dissemination of information in local languages and protective equipment.

The caucus has also tried to kick off discussions on reviewing commitments related to women & sustainable development issues for 2001 and 2002. There are numerous important and benchmarked commitments (eg for the year 2000), and no review has been planned so far. Comments on the background paper are welcome (to Minu Hemmati at; we will take the issues up again at CSD-8.



The Women’s Caucus and its member organisations will host several side events at CSD-8 – on trade, agriculture & pesticides, land rights, etc.

We are also planning a Women’s Caucus International Luncheon on April 26, at the Church Centre:
Women food farmers from the 5 U.N. regions of the world will address the government, UN and Major Group representatives at CSD-8. Many times when people talk about agriculture and food, not much recognition is afforded to rural women farmers who are the major players in food production. In fact, very little chance is given to these women to speak of their efforts and gain the support which they so badly need. At the event, people will hear and learn from those who are most responsible for food production – and taste what sisters and brothers from around the world have cooked.
The Women’s Caucus is seeking support and participation from regional groups and countries in the preparation for this event and donation of food and beverages.
Please contact:
Chief (Mrs.) Bisi Ogunleye
Pamela Ransom, WEDO
Minu Hemmati

Women’s Caucus material:
Women’s Caucus background and position papers are available on the caucus web-site. A summary of recommendations on the upcoming issues is also available.
The caucus is also maintaining a list server - go to You can subscribe there and check the archives.