ECOSOC resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946 with the aim to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights.
The Commission’s mandate was expanded in 1987 by ECOSOC resolution 1987/22 to include the functions of promoting the objectives of equality, development and peace, monitoring the implementation of measures for the advancement of women, and reviewing and appraising progress made at the national, subregional, regional and global levels. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly mandated the Commission to integrate into its programme a follow-up process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action and to develop its catalytic role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities.
The ECOSOC again modified the Commission’s terms of reference in 1996, in its resolution 1996/6, deciding that the Commission should:
(a) Assist the Council in monitoring, reviewing and appraising progress achieved and problems encountered in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at all levels, and should advise the Council thereon;(b) Continue to ensure support for mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities and develop further its catalytic role in that regard in other areas;
(c) Identify issues where United Nations system-wide coordination needed to be improved in order to assist the Council in its coordination function;
(d) Identify emerging issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting the situation of women or equality between women and men that required consideration and make substantive recommendations thereon;
(e) Maintain and enhance public awareness and support for the implementation of the Platform for Action.
Membership and composition
Forty-five Member States of the United Nations serve as members of the Commission at any one time. The Commission consists of one representative from each of the 45 Member States elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: thirteen members from Africa; eleven from Asia; nine from Latin America and Caribbean; eight from Western Europe and other States and four from Eastern Europe. Members are elected for a period of four years.
Click here to download the list of current members of the Commission.
The Commission meets annually for a period of 10 working days (late February-early March) at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The Bureau of the Commission plays a crucial role in facilitating the preparation for, and in ensuring the successful outcome of the annual sessions of the Commission. Bureau members serve for two years. In 2002, in order to improve its work and ensure continuity, the Commission decided to hold the first meeting of its subsequent session, immediately following the closure of the regular session, for the sole purpose of electing the new Chairperson and other members of the Bureau (Council resolution 46/101).
Current Members of the Bureau
The Bureau for the 58th session (2014) comprises the following members:
- H.E. Mr. Libran Cabactulan (Philippines), Chair-designate
Asia-Pacific States Group
- Mr. Mohamed Elbahi (Sudan), Vice-Chair-designate
African States Group
- Ms. Neli Shiolashvili (Georgia), Vice-Chair
Eastern European States Group
- H.E. Mr. Carlos García González (El Salvador), Vice-Chair-designate
Latin American and Caribbean States Group
- Ms. Christine Loew (Switzerland), Vice-Chair
Western European and other States Group
Output of the Commission
The principal output of the Commission on the Status of Women is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. Agreed conclusions contain an assessment of progress, as well as of gaps and challenges. In particular, they contain a set of concrete recommendations for action by Governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level.
In addition to the agreed conclusions, the Commission also adopts a number of resolutions on a range of issues, including the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; and women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS.
The annual report of the Commission is submitted to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.
Role of the Secretariat
UN Women is responsible for providing substantive support to the Commission in all aspects of its work, including to its Bureau. UN Women is also responsible for facilitating the participation of civil society representatives in the Commission’s annual session, as well as for the coordination of parallel events held at the United Nations during the sessions.
“Our times demand a new definition of leadership – global leadership. They demand a new constellation of international cooperation – governments, civil society and the private sector, working together for a collective global good.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Speech at World Economic Forum – Davos, Switzerland (29 January 2009)
The United Nations is both a participant in and a witness to an increasingly global civil society. More and more, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society organizations (CSOs) are UN system partners and valuable UN links to civil society. CSOs play a key role at major United Nations Conferences and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. NGOs are consulted on UN policy and programme matters. The UN organizes and hosts, on a regular basis, briefings, meetings and conferences for NGO representatives who are accredited to UN offices, programmes and agencies.
The Australian government considers the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as an important international event drawing attention to women’s rights and efforts to address gender inequality. Important to successful negotiations and outcomes are active and informed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the ground at CSW and in the lead up to preparations.
Australian NGO’s have been particularly engaged across Government and in communities identifying key issues of importance related to the annual priority theme. The Australian government delegation to CSW relies on feedback and information from NGOs to help inform its negotiation priorities as well as to draw attention of other governments to key issues of concern.
This is particularly useful through NGOs on the ground at CSW who participate and conduct a range of events targeted at other international NGOs as well as governments. However, not every NGO can attend every annual session of CSW and there is a need for collaboration and information sharing across Australian NGOs on the expectations, logistics, roles and outcomes of CSW. Better informed NGOs will foster better planning and advocacy.