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The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was created as a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Council on 21 June 1946 (see ECOSOC Resolution 11(II)). It is the principal global entity exclusively dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment. It consists of forty-five representatives from UN member states, elected by the ECOSOC on the basis of equality of regional representation. These representatives meet annually for two weeks in New York City (USA).

The CSW prepared the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, and since 1996 has focused its attention on monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. During each of its sessions, the CSW is responsible for (see ECOSOC Resolutions 2006/92009/15 and 2013/18)

  • Engaging in general discussion on the status of gender equality, identifying goals attained, achievements, gaps and challenges in relation to implementation of key commitments;
  • Focusing on one priority theme, based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly;
  • Holding a high-level roundtable to exchange experiences, lessons learned and good practices on the priority theme;
  • Evaluating progress in implementing agreed conclusions from previous sessions as a review theme;
  • Convening interactive panel discussions on steps and initiatives to accelerate implementation, and measures to build capacities for mainstreaming gender equality across policies and programmes;
  • Addressing emerging issues that affect gender equality;
  • Considering in closed meeting the report of its Working Group on Communications;
  • Agreeing on further actions for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women by adopting agreed conclusions and resolutions;
  • Contributing gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental bodies and processes; and
  • Celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it falls within its session.

iconLockWant more? Read a detailed history of CSW online

How does it help tackle violence against women?

Securing the legal foundations of women’s human rights

In its early years, the CSW assisted with the development of international human rights law and standards relating to women’s rights. For example, CSW helped ensure that the language in the UDHR was inclusive of women as well as men. The CSW also convened the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City, followed by the 1976–1985 UN Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace. Additional world conferences took place in Copenhagen in 1980 and Nairobi in 1985.

CSW has drafted treaties and declarations related to women’s rights – including the elimination of gender-based discrimination and violence against women, including:

In focus: CSW 57 – elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls

To guide its work, the CSW adopts multi-year work programmes that outline priority areas of action for its upcoming annual sessions.

In 2013, Session 57’s (“CSW 57”) priority was the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Members from civil society were invited to participate by submitting information for consideration, organising parallel events, circulate suggested readings, deliver oral statements to the CSW and attend public meetings. With their contributions, the CSW concluded its session with 69 recommendations, related to four categories:

  • Strengthening implementation of legal and policy frameworks and accountability
  • Addressing structural and underlying causes and risk factors so as to prevent violence against women and girls
  • Strengthening multi-sectoral services, programmes and responses to violence against women and girls
  • Improving the evidence base

iconLockWant more? Read all of CSW’s agreed conclusions

iconStarCivil Society Engagement: Participation in CSW Sessions

The active participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is a critical element in the work of the Commission on the Status of Women. NGOs have been influential in shaping the current global policy framework on women’s empowerment and gender equality: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. They continue to play an important role in holding international and national leaders accountable for the commitments they made in the Platform for Action.

iconLock Want more? Visit UN Women’s webpage for more information on how to participate in CSW’s meetings. Civil society organisations interested in ECOSOC accreditation may also find additional information on eligibility requirements, how to apply and other information on the NGO Branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs website.

Information on previous CSW sessions, documentation of their work and other information related to women’s empowerment and gender equality can be found on the Dag Hammarskold Library website.

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