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The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the main UN organ responsible for economic and social matters and was established pursuant to Chapter X of the UN Charter. It is charged with coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic growth, social progress and environmental protection. It consists of 54 member states that are elected by the General Assembly and serve three-year terms.

ECOSOC is the primary forum for knowledge sharing and debate on the implementation of international development commitments and is responsible for the follow-up to major UN conferences and summits. It is also responsible for monitoring the work of related UN specialised agencies, including the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women. ECOSOC has special responsibility for the promotion of human rights and has the authority to submit recommendations and draft conventions to the General Assembly (e.g. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) for the purpose of promoting respect for, and observance of, human rights.

How does it help tackle violence against women?

Commission on the Status of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was established by ECOSOC (see Resolution 11(II)) on 21 June 1946. It serves as the UN’s intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The CSW adopts multi-year work programmes to track progress of and make recommendations on state implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. A priority theme for CSW 57 (2013) and review theme for CSW 60 (2016) was the ‘elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls’.

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United Nations Development Programme

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) serves as the UN’s “development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.” Four main areas are the focus of its work:

  • Sustainable development
  • Democratic governance
  • Peacebuilding
  • Climate and disaster resilience

Gender equality is one of the UNDP’s key areas of focus. It adopts a multidimensional approach to eliminating gender-based discrimination and achieving equality, incorporating it into the sustainable development framework. Eliminating VAW is part of this approach. For example, Sustainable Development Goal 5 explicitly calls for the elimination of all forms of VAW. UNDP targets the elimination of VAW in accordance with SDG 5, however it also recognises VAW as a barrier to achieving other SDGs, including SDG 1 (end poverty in all its form everywhere) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

UN Women

In July 2010, the General Assembly created UN Women (GAR 64/L.56) – the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Operating under the authority of the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women was created as part of a UN reform agenda. It brings together resources and mandates to improve and accelerate efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

UN Women merges and builds on the work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment:

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Regional Commissions

Regional commissions are one group of subsidiary bodies within ECOSOC that may contribute to the elimination of VAW. Each is responsible for fostering economic integration at regional and sub-regional levels, promoting regional implementation of international development goals (e.g. Sustainable Development Goals, which includes the elimination of violence against women) and supporting regional sustainable development. Regional commissions promote dialogue, knowledge sharing and networking at the regional level, and work together to promote intra- regional and inter-regional cooperation in reaching development goals.

Currently, there are 5 regional commissions:

Gender is a thematic area of concern for the Regional Commissions, and each has undertaken work to tackle VAW in their respective region. The Economic Commission for Africa worked with UN Women and the African Union Commission to develop the Addis Ababa Declaration on Accelerating the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, which included a section on tackling VAW. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia focuses specifically on the issue of gender-based violence and has launched a study with the Lebanese American University on ‘Access to Justice for Women and Girls in the Arab Region: From Ratification to Implementation of International Instruments’.

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