Press Release: Supported by Japan, Arab States agree on common priorities to advance women’s empowerment and the elimination of violence against women ahead of CSW63

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The League of Arab States (LAS) in partnership with UN Women and ESCWA and with the generous support of the Government of Japan, held the Arab Regional Preparatory Meeting for the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women[1] (CSW63) in Cairo on 4 February 2019.

The one-day meeting offered an opportunity for representatives from 19 governments from across the Arab States region to discuss and agree on a common position ahead of the CSW63 meetings to be held in New York between 11 and 22 March 2019. The priority theme for this year’s global meeting is ‘Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls’, with a review theme on ‘Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development’.

During the February regional consultation, member States from the region recognized the importance of social protection, public services and infrastructure to, inter alia, protect women from all forms of violence. The result of this consultation was the unanimous adoption of the Arab Declaration for CSW63 - the main reference point that will inform Arab delegates attending the CSW negotiations in New York. The Declaration highlights the linkages between social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure and the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

Speaking on the margins of the meeting, Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director of UN Women for the Arab States, underlined the importance of articulating a regional common agenda that can be leveraged in the CSW63 upcoming negotiations to uphold women’s rights in the region. In addition, he noted that “comprehensive social protection, universal access to public services and sustainable infrastructure is critical to achieve women’s economic empowerment and to eliminate violence against women and girls. Understanding these linkages will enable member States to create a virtuous cycle for women to live free from violence.”

The Arab Declaration for CS63 also highlights the very significant security threats faced by women and girls in the region, many of whom are living in areas experiencing conflict or are displaced. These threats affect women’s ability to live a life free of violence, and the Arab Declaration specifically calls upon the international community “to commit to its responsibilities in order to reduce the tragedy of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees and to pay special attention to the situation of women and girl refugees in host states and to empower them to improve the living conditions of refugee women and girls and to ensure they have access to social protection, employment opportunities, education and to live a life free from violence”.

The Arab Declaration underscores the need for provisions tackling the trafficking of women and girls. Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of detected trafficking victims globally, while in the Middle East and North Africa, it is estimated that over half the reported victims are women.[2] The Arab Declaration commits member States to establish mechanisms to identify and respond to cases of trafficking of women and girls, and to create a culture that promotes justice, equality, and women’s contribution to sustainable development and growth.

In addressing barriers for women to access social protection schemes and public services, the Arab Declaration cites, inter alia, existing transportation, lack of information, and discriminatory social norms as significant challenges. It recognizes that one key aspect of establishing inclusive and gender-responsive social protection systems is to “ensure that public services are of adequate quality, taking into account the rights of all women and girls, age sensitive, and disability-sensitive, culturally relevant and physically accessible and free from violence.”

The adoption of the Arab Declaration strengthens regional and national efforts to create an enabling environment to accelerate the joint work for the elimination of violence against women and girls in the Arab States region. This is in line with the objectives of the ongoing programme, Joint Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls in the Arab States Region, implemented by the UN Women Regional Office for Arab States in partnership with UNFPA, UNDP, UNODC and WHO. This joint programme is generously funded by the Government of Japan and aims to create a region where women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence. The Arab Declaration also reinforces and reflects the key concerns of the joint statement of the League of Arab States and the United Nations on 26 November 2018 on the occasion of the launch of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign in the Arab States region, which was also supported by the Government of Japan.

Click here to read the full text of the Arab Declaration in English and Arabic.

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[1] The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

[2] UNODC 2018, Global report on trafficking in persons.