On March 15th, the final day of its 57th session, and after long hours of productive negotiations, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted Agreed Conclusions on the theme of the elimination of violence against women and girls. The CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women worldwide. From March 4 to 15, 2013, representatives from Member States, United Nations entities, and non-governmental organizations gathered in New York City from around world to attend this year’s session, which included high-level round tables, interactive dialogues and panels, and parallel events. I was proud to join so many high level federal officials as part of the U.S. delegation, including Valarie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, James Cole, Lynn Rosenthal, and others from departments across the Federal Government. The participation of these U.S. government leaders in this year’s CSW reflects this Administration’s commitment to building a shared vision of a world free from all forms of violence against women and girls. I was honored to participate on a panel on Sexual Violence and share the United States Government’s experiences (successes and struggles) in serving victims of underserved and vulnerable populations, particularly the elderly, American Indian and Alaska Native women, and people with disabilities. After months of preparations, sharing ideas, experiences and expertise, gathering together to make a commitment to protecting women and girls from violence and discrimination in all forms was exhilarating and empowering. The Agreed Conclusions represent an important step toward ensuring that all women and girls around the world can live safe, healthy, and productive lives, free from the scourge of violence and abuse. The agreement provides the foundation to continue the unfinished work of empowering women and girls and reaffirms the critical role of women human rights defenders. These conclusions reinforce that States have a duty, regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls. I am particularly pleased that the Agreed Conclusions clearly acknowledge the importance of investing in and protecting sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in connection with the prevention, mitigation, and elimination of violence against women and girls. It’s also critical that the Agreed Conclusions address trafficking in persons, women and girls with disabilities, and indigenous women and girls. As often is the case in extensive negotiations, agreement could not reached on every important issue. Notably, there was no consensus on explicit reference to the applicability of the Agreed Conclusions to all women regardless of sexual orientation or/and gender identity nor on using the term intimate partner violence, which I believe more accurately captures the range of relationships where abuse happens. I feel confident that we will continue to press for progress on these issues. As Ambassador Susan Rice so eloquently said, “Ending this global scourge will require comprehensive support service for survivors, justice for perpetrators, redoubled efforts to prevent assault, and the common recognition that women and girls have fundamental and inalienable rights.” I could not agree more and the CSW’s Agreed Conclusions mark a milestone in our journey toward a world that honors the basic dignity and security of all women and girls. At OVW we frequently witness what can be accomplished when knowledge, skills, and successes are shared to further a common vision. It was wonderful to witness the CSW adopt such an important Agreed Conclusion through this same spirit of collaboration and through a shared goal of ending violence against women and girls around the world.
April 2, 2013
Updated July 30, 2014