My experience over the last few weeks at CSW62 has been busy – busy in that meaningful, productive sense that one feels as an impetus pushing you further along, and to further auspices. It definitely feels like I’m very much in the maw of an intellectual transition at some level, in that I’m getting a keener insight into the machinery that is the United Nations, and an ever-burgeoning appreciation for the relentless work of community activists and NGOs doing the work on-ground. I can’t help but think of the unsung heroines who were not able to have a presence at the proceedings, particularly amid protests around the denial of US visas to human rights activists who were confirmed to attend this year’s Commission. As Arundathi Roy wrote, 'There's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.'
Truthfully, I was disheartened by the lack of representation, particularly from Asia, in numerous sessions I attended. It seemed apparent to me that our positioning of the Anglosphere in the international space remains plainly unignorable– and when some of the most egregious ills of society afflict communities situated well outside this, it felt as though we were presented an incomplete picture of the present agenda. Perhaps this is covered in some other scope of affairs under the aegis of the UN, but for the purposes of CSW (and what I rosily anticipated of the proceedings) I felt we were proffered but a cursory evaluation of these global endeavours at large.
Further, in amid some of the especially heavy topics on the agenda at this year’s CSW, I really came to reflect on what kind of collective humanity we envision for ourselves as we enter a new decade. As we approach the target for the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in particular, we need to leave no stone unturned – now more than ever. CSW has provided that international plenary framework under which UN member states are able to take each other to task in making gender empowerment a priority in the immediate term. However, like any other bureaucratic apparatus, the UN remains a sum of its altogether disparate parts, and somewhere in between all of this we hope to find some semblance of cohesion and commitment to the greater good. I have to admit that by the end of the first week’s official proceedings I was fairly tired of hearing buzzwords and rhetoric around ‘gender empowerment’ and ‘women’s rights’ that didn’t translate into actionable, target-oriented practice – just some safe, uncontroversial refrains on repeat that seemed to empty themselves of meaning the more they were brought into public discussion.
That was frustrating, but also a lesson learned in fruitful diplomacy – it comes as no surprise that much of the contention in agreeing on the outcome document came down to seemingly minor details with huge interpretative leeway, such as in specific wording (in one example the extension of rights and freedoms to ‘women in all their diversities’, where the word ‘diversities’ was sorely contested for what that might mean with respect to gender and sexual orientations).
On this note, I’ve been persistent in scribing away during sessions I was present at (times where I wasn’t otherwise engaged with presenters, or networking of course!). My following blog posts will include a compilation of notes (and reflections) on the various NGO and intergovernmental panels I was involved in – as well as a collection of photographs from our days out and about in the Big Apple.
Till my next check-in!
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.