Josie Olsen: CSW Week 2, a month later

Although I’ve been home from the USA for almost a month now, the issues raised at CSW62 are still percolating (very distracting for me now that I’m meant to be fully focused on my PhD research again!) In my last blog, way back in NYC, I shared some of my most interesting notes from each day of week 1, so for this third (very delayed) blog, I decided to revisit 3 sessions from week 2 that are still buzzing around in my head a month after the fact. Once again, enjoy the madness!

1.       Mormon family values at a commission focused on empowering women..?

My first talk on day 6 was half hilarious and half terrifying – some internalised misogyny combined with postfeminist rhetoric about all choices made by women being empowering (from a Taiwanese woman who described feminism as yet another Western encroachment on Eastern traditions), then a Mormon perspective on family life.

The most egregious uses of bad data came from the Mormon professor [Timothy Rarick, Brigham-Young Uni Idaho, department of Home and Family: This is exactly as crazy as it sounds – Mormon university. Google it for your next career move!]. Key points included: biological fathers are crucial to child development because men use bigger words than women do; girls that have involved fathers get their period later than girls without involved fathers (I guess my dad was useless then!); constant emphasis on biological father involvement as only possible male role model.

2.       Snow and NZ’s role at the UN

On day 8 we fought our way through the slush to the NZ Permanent Mission, where we got to meet with Finnian Cheshire, the Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand. Key takeaways:

-          NZ’s main goal at the UN (like other liberal countries) is to bring up or at least maintain the baseline of acceptable global standards of behaviour.

-          Despite the fact that everything at the UN works in extreme slow motion, it’s worthwhile for the incremental shifts in belief and practise that it does create – if we didn’t have it we would have to invent it. [‘The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small’ could totally apply to the UN.]

-          Main benefit of the UN is keeping countries in a room talking – this is a very unusual concept in terms of human history. This is being threatened by countries turning inwards and becoming more nationalistic, but this again underlines why having this space is so important.

-          Main division at the UN is between interventionist countries (us, USA, UK, Nordics etc) and state-paramount countries (led by Russia and China) who think that the UN should mind their own business.

-          NZ IMFAT is currently super white, legal and male – actively trying to recruit diverse people.

-          New Zealand is good at diplomacy, since it’s what we’ve always had to do – no strong-arming or posturing for NZ! Soft power, friendships, and finding things in common is where we excel.

-          The best way for young people to get engaged at the UN is not to come here and fight as individuals, but to create pressure on the NZ govt at home – make our position NZ’s official position so that the weight of a whole country is behind us in this global space.

3.       The agreed conclusions

It is super exciting that we did manage to get agreed conclusions, given the fact that last time the rural women theme came up no conclusions could be reached. HOWEVER. Some quick quotes from the closing comments from various nations show why celebrating agreed conclusions is kind of stupid when literally ten minutes after they were agreed countries were already backtracking and backstabbing like pros.

The USA led off strong by saying that it did not accept some of the language used in the conclusions – “The conclusions refer to a global economic crisis, even though we are not in this” – then followed up this half hilarious half terrifying assertion by rejecting all the agreed conclusions around trade as “not in the expertise of this commission” and reminding everyone that all references to climate change and the Paris agreement do not apply to the US.

El Salvador brought some subtle shade by censuring “the country which is the source of 17 million emigrants and the top recipient of remittances from migrants worldwide” for not supporting some of the conclusions and resolutions around migrant rural women – carefully didn’t name the country but those two facts made it clear after a quick Google that India was the lax country.

Unsurprisingly, a number of countries immediately reversed their supposed agreement to the conclusions around sexual health and reproductive rights (SRHR). Bahrain spoke on behalf of the Arab group of states and disavowed SRHR and especially sex ed, while the Holy See said that the SRHR conclusions were “far from being consensual”; stated their interpretation of SRHR as holistic, excluding abortion and promotion of “radical autonomous rights”; and affirmed that gender and sex were the same thing.

Finally, Mauritania registered “general reservations on all controversial elements that go against Islam, sharia, and national law”. Iran also used this excellent get-out-of-jail-free card: accepting all conclusions except those that contradict national laws.

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on April 30, 2018 and filed under CSW62 2018.