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The General Assembly (GA) is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. It was established under Chapter IV of the Charter and, today, comprises representatives from each of the 193 member states. The Assembly meets annually from September to December although work continues year-round through its six main committees and other subsidiary organs. It may also hold special sessions, convened by the Secretary-General at the request of the Security Council or at the request of a majority of the member states. Each member state has one vote. The Assembly plays a pivotal role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law by convening diplomatic conferences to negotiate treaties drafted by the International Law Commission or the Third or Sixth Committees.

How does it help tackle violence against women?

Broadening the international human rights framework

Following the adoption of the landmark Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993, the GA has taken numerous steps to tackle VAW. In particular, on the back of regularly commissioned reports on VAW, the Assembly has adopted a host of resolutions (most notably GAR 61/143) requiring member states to intensify efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The Assembly has also addressed VAW in its activities on: human trafficking; migrant workers; traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls; domestic violence; rape and sexual violence; and specific forms of VAW including FGM and ‘honour’ crimes.

The adoption of soft law instruments by the Assembly to promote gender equality and address VAW has been instrumental in paving the way for the codification of the law. This is most notably demonstrated by the adoption of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (GAR 49/164) following the adoption by the Assembly of the 1967 Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (GAR 2263). The Assembly’s codification work has contributed to the development and expansion of international law, which has furthered the protection of women in a variety of contexts including:

In 1999, the Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In 2015 the Assembly designated 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

iconLockWant more? Access information on the GA’s work to tackle VAW, or access specific declarations and conventions contained in GA Resolutions.

2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): defining political priorities and impacting change

“We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.”

Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

On 25 September 2015 the GA adopted ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development‘, to replace the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Initiated by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) the Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets. Together, the SDGs and their targets represent the need for development that works for all people and provides a renewed global commitment to end poverty, fight inequality and protect the environment. Goal 5 of the SDGs is specifically dedicated to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Whereas the MDGs Goal 3 on gender equality and women’s empowerment focused primarily on education, SDG Goal 5 contains 9 targets – each of which are relevant to tackling VAW:

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  • Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Despite the focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Goal 5, other SDGs and their targets are relevant to tackling VAW. Goal 1, for example, calls for the creation of “sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions”.

iconLockWant more? Read about the Sustainable Development goals on the UN’s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. 

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